Amid the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), most dental clinics are temporarily closed to reduce the spread of the infectious disease. 

"Dentists work with equipment and tools (like handpieces) that produce high pressured compressed air," explains dentist Dr. Joyce I. Angeles in an email interview with Female Network. "These are used for digging out cavities, drying tooth preparations, etc. When the compressed air comes in contact with the patient’s saliva, blood, and mucus, these particles fly out and get suspended in the air. Since COVID-19 spreads via respiratory particles, the dentist becomes at risk if the patient has the disease because of the fluids (saliva, blood, and mucus) that may contain COVID-19." 

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised dental clinics to prioritize emergency visits and postpone elective procedures, surgeries, and non-urgent dental visits to "protect staff and preserve personal protective equipment and patient care supplies, as well as expand available hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic." Consequently, the Philippine Dental Association (PDA) echoed the recommendation. That said, some clinics in the country remain open only for dental emergencies. But what is considered an urgent dental visit? And what should you do if you're suffering from aching teeth at home? 

Below, dentists Dr. Joyce I. Angeles and Dr. Meng Y. Cahilig share sound advice on the matter! 

1. Consult your dentist. 

Amid the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), many dentists are accommodating consultations through text messaging or messaging apps. "I ask them to send me a selfie of their tooth problem so I can asses the condition," explains Dr. Angeles. "If needed, I prescribe them medicine and take a picture of it for them to show to the drug stores." Fortunately, she says, this type of transaction is being honored by pharmacies.

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"Kung severe pain talaga at [halimbawa] kailangan ng patient ng tooth extractionpwede naming i-refer sa [mga clinics sa] hospital," shares Dr. Cahilig, whose clinic is currently closed during the lockdown. To avoid close contact with persons infected with COVID-19, the dentist notes that patients must be screened through the phone before their appointment can be confirmed by a dental clinic.

So what is considered a "dental emergency"? Dr. Angeles explains that urgent dental care includes "severe swelling and pain, profuse bleeding, broken teeth..." 

Non-essential dental procedures such as cleanings, tooth exams, whitening treatments, and x-rays are postponed for the time being. 

FN Tip: You can also try joining Facebook groups like UP Dentista para sa Bayan, where some members of the UP Dental Alumni Association are offering free online consultations!

2. Alleviate tooth pain with at-home remedies. 

"If there is swelling in the gums, gargle mouthwash, or a mixture of warm water and salt," recommends Dr. Angeles. Meanwhile, if you've got a big cavity on your tooth, the dentist suggests buying "a toothache drop (no prescription is needed) and put a small amount on the hole."

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3. Be mindful of what you eat.

Prevention is better than cure. As Dr. Angeles points out, "The frequency of eating during the quarantine period increased, this resulted in my patients to have toothaches and broken fillings. Avoid snacking too much and always brush and floss your teeth after eating."

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