Resources for urgent dental care during COVID-19

A resource for people in need of emergency and urgent dental care is available while many dental offices are closed in response to COVID-19.

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee mandated the closure of dental offices for elective procedures in order to help prevent community spread of COVID-19 and preserve personal protective equipment for medical providers on the frontlines.

 

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To help reduce any additional burden on hospital emergency rooms and at the same time assist vulnerable populations, Arcora Foundation, the foundation of Delta Dental of Washington, is using its free dental referral service, DentistLink, to connect people who either don’t have a current dental provider or can’t access their current provider with dental providers in their area who can provide urgent care. DentistLink is a service focused on people who have Apple Health (Medicaid) or do not have insurance.

By calling offices and clinics across the state, DentistLink has compiled a current list of dental providers who are available to alleviate dental pain and treat dental emergencies until dental offices can resume regular schedules.

Here is how the DentistLink referral system works.

  • People needing assistance can call or text DentistLink at 844-888-5465.
  • A DentistLink referral specialist will respond as quickly as possible. Depending on volume, the user will likely hear back from DentistLink within a few hours.
  • The referral specialist will ask a few questions related to the user’s age, location and the nature of the dental problem.
  • If the problem needs immediate attention, DentistLink will connect the user to a provider that is open to treat urgent problems.
  • DentistLink is no cost to patients, dental care providers and community partners.

Toothaches and untreated cavities can be incredibly painful and affect overall health. During this period when many dental offices and community health center dental clinics are closed, some people with dental pain are not sure where to turn for help. Lower-income families especially struggle to access dental care even under normal circumstances.

“Given our current public health crisis, alternatives other than the emergency room are needed for those in dental pain,” said Vanetta Abdellatif, President and CEO of Arcora Foundation. “Urgent dental problems and emergencies have not gone away. Innovative approaches, such as DentistLink, will help bridge the gap to care until this crisis has passed. We are committed to helping people get the essential dental care they need in a timely fashion.”

Even prior to the COVID-19 health crisis, access to dental care has been an ongoing problem in Washington. A recent example is the Seattle King County Clinic in February, where people waited in lines for hours, some overnight, for dental care.

Because of the overall lack of access, especially for lower-income families, many people in dental pain seek help in emergency rooms, which are not equipped to deal with underlying dental problems. Patients are generally prescribed antibiotics, and too often opiates to relieve pain, and told to see a dentist. With many dental offices now closed, it is important for people to have care options so that at this critical time no one seeks dental care in extremely busy emergency rooms.

“Dental problems can quickly get worse and become more difficult to treat,” said Dr. Ji Choi, Chief Dental Officer at Columbia Basin Health Association and an Arcora Foundation Board member.  “Anyone who has had a throbbing toothache knows how painful it can be. Our goal is to help people get the urgent dental care needed to relieve suffering and protect this important aspect of overall health.”

This press release was provided by Arcora Foundation, the foundation of Delta Dental of Washington.