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SARS-Cov-2, the virus responsible for the disease known as COVID-19 has taken the world by storm. It has closed businesses, shut down cities, and greatly impacted the medical community, including dentistry. In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, dental offices across the country are currently closed to elective procedures and treatments – meaning no routine cleanings, whitening, veneers, or preventative exams. That said, we’re still here for dental emergencies and tele-consults. This is a tough time for everyone, and it is our mission to support our patients when they need it most!  

What constitutes a dental emergency? 

Right now, due to the high-risk of exposure, our main priority is to keep as many people out of the emergency room as possible. While not all dental pain is considered an emergency, you shouldn’t wait to find out. Call our office first, and we’ll help you get the care you need. Though we’re closed to elective treatments, you can still get the emergency dental care you need! 

Dental trauma

If you, a family member, or a housemate are experiencing dental trauma – such as hitting your tooth hard enough to knock it out or loosen it – seek emergency dental care right away. 

What to do: 

  1. DO NOT remove any tissue from the tooth or tooth socket. 
  2. Rinse your mouth and tooth gently with warm water.
  3. IF you have removed debris from the tooth, you can gently put it back into its socket. Otherwise: 
  4. Put the knocked-out tooth in a glass of milk and bring it with you to your appointment. 

Broken, chipped, or fractured tooth

A broken tooth can be very painful and should not be ignored. If you or a loved one chips, breaks, or fractures a tooth, you should first collect all the pieces so you can bring them with you to your appointment. Next, rinse your mouth with warm salt water and apply a cold compress to help reduce any swelling. 

And lastly, call Dr. Ema immediately if you have a broken tooth. 


An oral infection can be a serious dental emergency. If you know you have an infection, such as an acute abscess, schedule an emergency appointment as soon as possible. It is imperative to be seen as soon as possible if you are dealing with an oral infection. 

Because some toothaches can also be a sign of infection, and you’re unsure about what you’re experiencing, call Dr. Ema to schedule a virtual consultation.

Other dental issues

Here are some examples of dental issues that don’t necessarily constitute emergencies. However, if you are experiencing any of these, and aren’t sure whether it’s a true emergency, be sure to contact Dr. Ema right away.


A toothache isn’t necessarily a dental emergency, but it certainly can be the sign of one. If you are experiencing a bad, persistent toothache, call Dr. Ema. Dental pain can be caused by a chipped or fractured tooth, an oral infection, tooth decay, or a number of other problems.

Rinse your teeth with warm saltwater, gently floss, and take NSAIDs to see if that helps the pain. If none of this helps, schedule a virtual consultation with Dr. Ema to determine whether or not you are dealing with a true dental emergency. 

Pain to biting

If you experience pain when you bite down on a back tooth, it may be cracked. Make note that a cracked tooth isn’t always a dental emergency.  It is normally caused by grinding or clenching your teeth, and sometimes progresses very slowly. You may feel mild-moderate pain when biting down on something hard. Grinding and clenching can also cause similar tooth pain, even if the tooth is not yet cracked. If you are in severe pain, call Dr. Ema right away. Otherwise, you can try purchasing an over-the-counter temporary night guard like the Aqualizer, for example. 

You may need a night guard if you: 

  • have been told by your dentist that you need one 
  • clench or grind your teeth 
  • frequently have tension headaches or neck aches 
  • feel pain relief when you massage your jaw muscles

If any of these apply to you, we encourage you to get a mouthguard at the pharmacy or online, and schedule an appointment for a custom-made night guard once we reopen. Try to avoid caffeine and manage stress, since both of these can worsen nighttime grinding. If you do not experience relief with a nightguard, NSAIDs, and jaw muscle stretches, then your tooth pain may be caused by something else.

Joint or muscle pain

Pain of the jaw muscles or joint (known as the TMJ) are not a dental emergency. However, if you are experiencing lockjaw, that is an emergency. Joint and muscle pain are often caused by the same thing as cracked teeth, mainly grinding and clenching. So in addition to trying the night guard mentioned above, you can also:

  • Use a cold or heat compress
  • Stretch out the jaw muscles 
  • Take NSAIDs (Ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.) to help with the pain
  • Try to get exercise if possible, enough sleep, and avoid caffeine

As mentioned above, joint or muscle pain can be an indication of grinding or clenching. If you find that you are doing this with your teeth, using a mouthguard like the Aqualizer can help you experience temporary relief until we reopen. 

Swollen gums

A common culprit of swollen gums is dental hygiene. If you’re experiencing swollen gums, you should start by brushing, flossing, and rinsing your mouth with saltwater or a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution (1 part hydrogen peroxide & 2 parts water). Since this is generally an indication that hygiene is an issue, you should schedule an appointment for a thorough cleaning once we reopen. Swollen gums can have other causes, so if you’re not sure if you have a dental emergency don’t hesitate to contact us.

Teleconsults for dentistry

If you think you’re dealing with a dental emergency but aren’t quite sure, a tele-consult is the best way to determine the best course of action. These are uncertain times for all of us, and we don’t want to compound your stress or worry by making you live with any dental pain you’re unsure about. Virtual consults are a great way to determine whether you need to be seen immediately or just plan for future treatment. 

Whether you’re worried about dental pain, or want a consultation for cosmetic treatment once things are back to normal, virtual consults get you the dental care you need while being socially responsible during this pandemic. Our patients are family, and we will always be here for you no matter what!

To schedule an emergency appointment or a virtual consult, call Dr. Ema today at 312-435-0411, or email us at smile@prdentalstudio.com. 

The information in this post is intended for informational purposes only and should be used as such. This does not constitute medical advice. You should always speak with your healthcare provider before making any decisions about your care. To learn more about how this information can and cannot be used, see our site disclaimer