Emergency vs Non Emergency Dental Procedures as Defined by the ADA
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Emergency vs Non Emergency Dental Procedures as Defined by the ADA

This list from the ADA should be helpful in determining what is considered “emergency” versus “non emergency."
The following should be helpful in determining what is considered “emergency” versus “non emergency.” This guidance may change as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, and dentists should use their professional judgment in determining a patient’s need for urgent or emergency care.

1. Dental emergency

Dental emergencies are potentially life threatening and require immediate treatment to stop ongoing tissue bleeding, alleviate severe pain or infection, and include: 
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Cellulitis or a diffuse soft tissue bacterial infection with intra-oral or extra-oral swelling that potentially compromise the patient’s airway
  • Trauma involving facial bones, potentially compromising the patient’s airway

Urgent dental care focuses on the management of conditions that require immediate attention to relieve severe pain and/or risk of infection and to alleviate the burden on hospital emergency departments. These should be treated as minimally invasively as possible. 

  • Severe dental pain from pulpal inflammation
  • Pericoronitis or third-molar pain
  • Surgical post-operative osteitis, 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 required prior to critical medical procedures
  • Final crown/bridge cementation if the temporary restoration is lost, broken or causing gingival irritation 

Other urgent dental care: 

  • Extensive dental caries or defective restorations causing pain
    • Manage with interim restorative techniques when possible (silver diamine fluoride, glass ionomers)
  • Suture removal
  • Denture adjustment on radiation/oncology patients
  • Denture adjustments or repairs when function impeded
  • Replacing temporary filling on endo access openings in patients experiencing pain
  • Snipping or adjustment of an orthodontic wire or appliances piercing or ulcerating the oral mucosa


2. Dental non emergency procedures

Routine or non-urgent dental procedures include but are not limited to: 
  • Initial or periodic oral examinations and recall visits, including routine radiographs
  • Routine dental cleaning and preventive therapies
  • Orthodontic procedures other than those to address acute issues (e.g. pain, infection, trauma)
  • Extraction of asymptomatic teeth
  • Restorative dentistry including treatment of asymptomatic carious lesions
  • Aesthetic dental procedures

​View COVID-19 information and updates at wsda.org/covid-19.

WSDA Information & Resources

Members can find Washington-specific COVID-19 information from WSDA below. Please contact WSDA with questions.

Important COVID-19 Information for Washington Dental Offices

WSDA provides members a detailed summary and resources to help comply with the Governor's criteria for continuing non-urgent procedures.
Learn more about Washington state's COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers and volunteering to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
Learn more about DOSH directives related to mask and respirator requirements for dental offices and other work settings.
See a list of fit testing locations across Washington state.

ADA Information & Resources

Find COVID-19 updates, resources, toolkits and more from the American Dental Association at ADA.org/virus.

Learn the latest on how to protect yourself, your staff and your patients.
Get the information you need to navigate challenges during the pandemic.
Get the latest COVID-19 vaccination guidance and developments.
Customizable patient education materials based on ADA interim guidance.
Get the most recent information on how to apply for and utilize SBA loans.
Catch up on COVID-19 webinars and learning opportunities.
Tips and tools for taking care of yourself in uncertain times.

DOH Information & Resources

Find COVID-19 information specific to Washington State on the DOH COVID-19 page.

Review resources and recommendations for health care providers from the Washington State Department of Health.
Review the COVID-19 Data Dashboard from the Washington State Department of Health.

CDC Resources & Information

Find COVID-19 information on the CDC COVID-19 page.

Review COVID-19 information for health care workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Page updated Jan. 25, 2022. Questions? Please contact us.
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