Emergency Dental Guidelines During COVID-19

COVID-19 has dramatically changed our lives, and dental care is just one of the many areas that has been impacted. As of March 26, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) directed dental facilities to cease all dental treatment except urgent and emergency procedures until further notice. According to Pennsylvania’s DOH website, this order is consistent with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

So how exactly does the Pennsylvania DOH’s order concerning current dental treatment impact you and your dental health? We know that you have very real needs and concerns regarding your dental care during this time. For this reason, we’d like to provide you with guidance and direction as to what how to appropriately manage your dental care during the COVID-19 pandemic.


When you call your dentist with a dental concern, you can first expect to be screened by your dentist. The first reason your dentist needs to screen is to determine if your dental concern does in fact constitute an emergency. What conditions are defined or are not defined as a dental emergency will be covered below. The second reason your dentist needs to screen is to determine if you may be suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. As required by the Pennsylvania DOH, the symptoms for which you will be screened include fever, cough, shortness of breath or myalgia.

If you are not suspected to have COVID-19 and your concern is deemed an emergency, the Pennsylvania DOH allows dentists to proceed with treatment using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and disinfection procedures that are consistent with usual standards of care. If you are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, you may see a dental professional only if their facility has received specific infection control training (including proper donning and doffing of PPE), and if they possess the proper PPE supplies (N95 mask or higher, goggles or a face-shield covering face and sides, and disposable gowns and gloves). If a dental facility does not meet these very specific Pennsylvania DOH requirements for the COVID-19 pandemic (which most do not), you will be referred by your dentist to another professional who possesses these.

Determining a Dental Emergency:

The American Dental Association (ADA) has written a very helpful MouthHealthy online article entitled, “What is a Dental Emergency?”
We hope these lists will help guide you to determine if your dental concern is in fact an emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic, though when in doubt, please call your dentist.

Dental Care That Can Be Rescheduled:

  • Regular visits for exams, cleanings and x-rays
  • Removal of teeth that aren’t painful
  • Treatment of cavities that aren’t painful
  • Tooth whitening

Emergency Dental Care:

  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop
  • Painful swelling in or around your mouth
  • Pain in a tooth, teeth or jaw bone
  • Gum infection with pain or swelling
  • After surgery treatment (dressing change, stitch removal)
  • Broken tooth that is painful
  • Denture adjustment for people receiving radiation or other treatment for cancer
  • Biopsy of abnormal tissue

As dental professionals, we want to be sure your dental needs are taken care of optimally during the COVID-19 pandemic and at all times. The above guidelines are meant to help ease your mind as to what to expect with your dental treatment during this pandemic and to also help direct you as to how to proceed with the dental concerns you do have. Our very sincere hope is that this pandemic will soon subside and that we at Boulevard Dental will be able to once again treat the full range of all your dental concerns.


American Dental Association. What is a Dental Emergency? MouthHealthy. https://www.ada.org/~/media//CPS/Files/COVID/ADA_DentalEmerg_Patient_Flyer.pdf?utm_source=adaorg&utm_medium=covid-resources-lp&utm_content=cv-pm-emerg-def-patients&utm_campaign=covid-19. Accessed April 3, 2020.

Pennsylvania Department of Health. Revised Guidance on COVID-19 for Dental Health Care Personnel in Pennsylvania, March 26, 2020. https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Documents/Diseases%20and%20Conditions/Guidance%20on%20COVID-19%20for%20Dental%20Health%20Care%20Personnel%20in%20Pennsylvania.pdf. Accessed April 3, 2020.