A Guide to Essential vs. Non-Essential Dental Procedures

Updated 3/20/20

The ADA develops guidance on dental emergency & non-emergency care.

Examples of urgent dental care treatments, which should be treated as minimally invasive as possible, include:
• Severe dental pain from pulpal inflammation.
• Pericoronitis or third-molar pain.
• Surgical postoperative osteitis or dry socket dressing changes.
• Abscess or localized bacterial infection resulting in localized pain and swelling.
• Tooth fracture resulting in pain or causing soft tissue trauma.
• Dental trauma with avulsion/luxation.
• Dental treatment cementation if the temporary restoration is lost, broken or causing gingival irritation.

Other emergency dental care includes extensive caries or defective restorations causing pain; suture removal; denture adjustments on radiation/oncology patients; denture adjustments or repairs when function impeded; replacing temporary filling on endo access openings in patients experiencing pain; and snipping or adjustments of an orthodontic wire or appliances piercing or ulcerating the oral mucosa.

Source: ADA

The below guide appeared during a teleconference The Association of Dental Support Organizations (ADSO) held for its members this past Monday, March 16, 2020. It is to help dentists identify which dental procedures are considered essential versus non-essential during a national emergency.

Dentists are to use the below as a guide, and encouraged to make professional judgment calls on the urgency of any procedure during emergencies.

PLEASE NOTE: All procedures should also consider risk factors associated with demographics more susceptible to COVID-19, such as elderly patients.

North American Dental Group, the dental support organization that created this guide now has an online COVID-19 Resource Guide for Dental Professionals. Click HERE.


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