UConn Health sees an average of 60 dental emergencies in a 24-hour period.
Dental emergencies can strike at any time. That’s why UConn Health has offered around-the-clock coverage for dental emergencies since the early 1970s and recently opened a specialized patient room within the new emergency department at UConn John Dempsey Hospital.
“We have the largest dental emergency service in the state,” says Dr. Steven Lepowsky, senior associate dean for education and patient care at the UConn School of Dental Medicine. “The service exists to address a significant unmet need.”
Even those who receive regular dental care can face emergency situations at any time. On average, UConn Health sees nearly 60 dental emergencies in 24 hours. The most common are toothaches related
to a cavity, root canal, or abscess.
On weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., urgent dental care is provided by students and residents from the UConn School of Dental Medicine who staff UConn Health’s dental clinics under faculty supervision.
The training component makes the emergency dental service a crucial piece of the dental school’s academic mission.
The service exists to address a significant unmet need.
“It helps the students and residents build skills in terms of how to diagnose a problem quickly, identify the source of the problem, and provide care that immediately addresses someone’s needs,” Lepowsky says.
After 10 p.m., patients who present with a dental emergency are assessed by medical staff, who can bring in the dental resident on call, if necessary.
Although the hours are nothing new, the after-hours setting is.
The new room and dental chair “replicate a full dental operatory, so it expanded the scope of what we could offer on an emergency basis after hours,” Lepowsky says. “It’s a much more pleasant environment for the patient.”
It’s not, however, meant to replace primary dental care, according to Lepowsky.
Sometimes, after-hours care involves just relieving pain and sending the patient home, asking them to return in the morning when the dental clinics open for a specific dental treatment.
“You want someone to have an established relationship with a dental provider so there’s someone coordinating all their annual dental health care and maintenance needs,” Lepowsky says.