How to prevent dental emergencies

It’s vital for dental offices to remain open to offer emergency care because it helps alleviate the burden of people with dental issues heading to hospital emergency departments that are overwhelmed with covid-19. But patients can do their part by doing their best to guard against emergencies.

Of course, you also want to avoid causing any dental emergencies right now by watching what you eat and how you use your teeth. Both Bonci and Weinstein say that popcorn is a common culprit for dental problems. “It’s the number-one cause of emergencies that I see, because the little shell from the popcorn can wedge itself all the way down in your gum, and you’ll have a swollen gum that hurts so much,” says Weinstein.

Bonci adds that unpopped popcorn kernels can also crack teeth, as can olive pits, which might even hide in pitted olives. Cracked or chipped teeth are not always an emergency, however; it depends where the crack is, how deep it runs and how much it hurts. Sometimes you can wait for an appointment if there’s no pain.

What about chewing on ice, I asked, because it’s one of my husband’s habits (that drives me crazy). While ice-crunching is never recommended, it’s also not likely to cause a dental emergency. “When you bite something hard and you’re not expecting it, that’s when you can crack a tooth,” says Bonci. “I don’t see a lot of damage with ice because the person knows they are biting into something hard, and they chew more carefully.”

If you are midway through dental work, and your next appointment was canceled, avoid emergencies by being careful about what you eat. “If you have a temporary in your mouth and are waiting for a permanent crown or inlay to come in, don’t eat anything super chewy. And be extra careful when flossing — floss down, and slide out,” says Weinstein.

Even though it’s a stressful time, you should try your best to keep up with your regular oral hygiene regimens, including brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. While routine dental procedures are on hold for now because the risks outweigh the benefits, Weinstein says she isn’t worried about patients missing a scheduled cleaning. “If you’re not prone to cavities, you use an electric toothbrush and floss daily, you’ll be just fine,” she says.