A toothache or other mouth pain can make it difficult to get through your day (or spoil your sleep) during the best of times. But during COVID-19, you might think you don’t have options to address your dental issues.

However, you don’t have to go it alone – if you need dental care, HealthPartners is open and ready to care for you.

We’ve been working closely within the Minnesota Board of Dentistry’s and other agency’s guidelines to prepare our clinics so you can receive safe and effective dental care. That includes changing our clinic layouts for greater social distancing, ensuring everyone is always wearing a face covering, applying rigorous cleaning and disinfecting standards, and much more.

Taking care of your oral health can make a huge difference in your well-being and quality of life, and that’s no less true during COVID-19. Let’s take a look at time-sensitive concerns you should address with your dentist right away, plus some self-care tips to help keep your teeth and gums in tip-top shape at home.

Time-sensitive dental care during COVID-19

For some dental situations, it’s important to call a dental clinic and make an appointment as soon as you can. Contacting a dentist quickly can help you find relief, prevent further long-term damage, and make care and recovery easier.

Here are examples of time-sensitive dental care you should seek treatment for immediately:

  • Painful toothaches – Tooth pain can be a sign of a number of different conditions, like tooth decay, an infection or something else. Getting expert dental care can both reduce the pain and help prevent the problem from progressing.
  • Mouth or face swelling – Swelling can be a sign of infection or another problem that should be taken care of quickly. Especially if you’re not sure of the cause, it’s important to get mouth or face swelling diagnosed to determine what kind of care you need.
  • Teeth or face injuries – Although you may not see a broken tooth or an obvious problem after a facial injury, there may be issues that only an X-ray or comprehensive dental exam can determine. Getting care quickly can help you receive the right care for your injury, including cosmetic repairs so you can look and feel your best.
  • Broken or lost fillings – Fillings are used to repair your teeth after decay has been removed. But in some cases, a filling can crack or fall out. If this happens, it’s important to see your dentist soon to prevent further damage and possible infection.
  • Broken teeth – A broken or knocked-out tooth not only is painful but also can cause problems with function and appearance. If you have a tooth that has fractured or been lost because of injury, see a dentist as soon as possible for repair options and pain relief.
  • Bleeding or swollen gums – You may notice your gums bleed, have gotten bigger, are very red or are extra sensitive. These can be signs of gum disease or other medical issues – talking with your dentist about your symptoms can help determine the right diagnosis and what kind of treatment would be most effective.
  • Gum disease care, especially if you have diabetes or are immunocompromised – When you have more serious, long-term gum problems, you may be diagnosed with gingivitis or periodontitis, infections of the gums and surrounding tissues and bones. Especially if you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, seeing your dentist regularly to manage and treat your gum disease can help prevent other medical issues and complications.
  • Severe pain where you can’t eat or sleep – If your tooth or mouth pain makes it hard to perform even basic daily tasks, you may have a dental emergency and need to see a dentist as soon as you can.

How to take care of your oral health at home

Though COVID-19 currently limits our ability to provide routine dental hygiene services, like teeth cleanings, we’re committed to caring for all of our patients – whether that’s in person, over the phone or with a video visit.

To help keep your teeth and gums in great condition at home, we recommend these self-care tips:

  • Brush your teeth every morning and every night with a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
  • Floss between your teeth once a day. Regular brushing and flossing helps remove plaque, which damages teeth and gums.
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks, as well as tobacco. These cause several health issues, including tooth and gum problems.
  • Practice tongue cleaning. You can use a tongue cleaner or a soft-bristle toothbrush, moving back-to-front.

What if I’m not sure whether I need to see a dentist?

It’s not unusual to wonder about whether your dental concerns can be treated at home or need an expert’s help. For example, pain is our body’s way of telling us that something’s not quite right. Severe pain should be addressed as soon as possible, and pain that doesn’t get better with over-the-counter pain medicine should also be taken care of quickly.

When you’re not sure what to do, you can always call our dental clinics for advice. All our dental clinic phone lines are open and ready to help you find the best care options. We may recommend a video visit or phone visit to learn more about your symptoms, and if necessary, we’ll help you make an in-person appointment at one of our clinics that’s been specially prepared to safely care for patients during COVID-19.

If your symptoms are very severe, you can also call our 24/7 CareLine℠ at 800-551-0859 to speak with a trained nurse, who may direct you to an immediate care location. In an emergency, always call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room. Our hospitals, along with all our clinics and care facilities, are safe and ready to care for you.

Looking after yourself during COVID-19

With news and information changing daily, it’s hard to say how long current social distancing guidelines will last or when everything might start getting back to usual. For that reason, it’s crucial you and your family look after yourself by getting the mental and physical health care you need.

When you need help with your dental care, we’re here for you. Even with COVID-19, it’s important not to delay care for any concerns you have, and our dental team will give you the best advice and treatment for whatever’s bothering you. We can’t wait to see everyone’s smiles again in all of our clinics soon – in the meantime, you have options, and we’re ready to help take care of your oral health and well-being with the right treatment.