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It seems like urgent or emergency dental situations always happen outside of traditional office hours. It might be 7p.m. Monday night, 10a.m. Saturday morning, or right after you clock out at the end of a long work week. When it does, you need care right away.
Unfortunately, the dentist you’ve been using isn’t open after hours or on Saturdays. You’re worried you’re going to have to wait all weekend before you can even talk to them.
Here are your options for what to do next:
Some dentists offer after-hours communication. If your call rolls straight through to an answering service, leave a detailed message. Eventually, that message will be relayed to someone on the staff, who — if your situation is deemed urgent — will call you back and direct you as to what to do next.
If the situation is severe enough, the dentist may be willing to meet you at their office. Otherwise, it may not be until opening hours the next business day before they call you back. If you don’t get a response, you can also try contacting them through their social media page or seeing if there is an emergency number listed on their website.
Maybe you’ve already determined that your situation isn’t an emergency, but it is bothersome enough that you’re not going to be able to get through the weekend without doing something about it.
You can either try taking a pain reliever and wait it out, or purchase a temporary filling/cement product from your local grocery store. These temporary products are only meant to get you through a day or two, until your dentist can see you.
If you’re using over-the-counter medication to relieve swelling or pain, try alternating ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) with acetaminophen (Tylenol) and use as directed.
If you’re in severe pain and there’s facial swelling or bleeding — and your dentist’s office is closed — you’ll need to go to the emergency room. Unfortunately, ER staff are not equipped to handle dental injuries or infected teeth. The best they can do is to help you stop the bleeding and prescribe a medication for temporary relief until you can get in to see a dentist. Antibiotics may also be in order to address underlying infection. Unless there’s a risk of facial infection, broken jaw, or severe pain, is the hospital bill worth it?
Some dental offices offer extended hours, including appointments on Saturdays. Because we live in a 24/7 society and many people are employed outside of traditional 9-5 jobs, dental practices are changing the way they offer traditional and emergency care. Finding a clinic that has multiple specialists on staff or a network of practices with more than one location makes it easy to ensure that you can be seen when time matters most.
As long as the dentist office is open on Saturdays, they should still be able to see new patients. But if you’re thinking about changing dentists to begin with, having Saturday office hours is an important perk to look for.