Emergency dentistry

Here in Kansas City there are a number of emergency services available. There are emergency rooms for emergency medical attention. The closest to where I live is either St Luke’s Hospital off Barry Road, or North Kansas City Hospital — the difference between the two I’m sure is less than a mile. There is an emergency veterinary clinic off Barry Road and MO-152 called Blue Pearl. I’ve mentioned them on this blog previously.

Why are there no overnight dental clinics?

I mean, let’s have a little thought experiment. If you have a sudden injury to any other part of your body except your teeth, you can have emergency medical attention. If you break a tooth or something like that, your only option seems to be the emergency room.

Let me provide context here. The night of February 9, I suffered a tooth fracture. The corner of one of my molars just completely popped off. So being in a slight panic, I took to the ‘Net to find an emergency clinic. There was an emergency dispatch service that, in hindsight, I should have called. But there were two clinics in particular that I found: Dental Corner down off 87th Street in the southern part of KC, and Dental Emergency Services in Prairie Village, KS.

There was also one dentist that advertises on their website as having a 24-hour emergency hotline. We tried calling it and were sent to voice mail! Say it with me: “FALSE ADVERTISING!”

Eventually we wound up at the emergency room at North Kansas City Hospital to see if there was any immediately-obvious damage and see what could be done. The on-call doctor said there wasn’t anything immediately concerning, and to use dental wax to pack the area and see a dentist as soon as possible.

So fast forward to the next morning, February 10 (when I’m writing this). A nice, bright, sunny Wednesday morning. First place we tried going was Dental Corner. Dentist is out of town through the end of the week.

So next we went across the state line to Prairie Village, Kansas, to Dental Emergency Services. Door was locked when we arrived and an attempt to call was sent to voice mail. The dental emergency clinic that advertises themselves as having a 24-hour hotline was in the same building as Dental Emergency Services. In hindsight we probably should’ve stopped in. Oh well.

Third clinic we tried was in northern Kansas City north of the MO-152 in the same area as Blue Pearl. They have a sign in their window saying that emergency cases were welcome, and they say on their site they take emergency cases. When we got there, they said the soonest I could be seen was Tuesday. What?!?!?

Here’s the thing about emergencies: immediate attention is being requested or needed. In the third clinic, I even said I was there specifically to have a tooth fracture examined. If I tried to walk into an orthopedist’s office with a broken arm, they would’ve sent me to an urgent care clinic or the emergency room. If you walk into a dentist office with a broken tooth, your only alternative is another dentist office.

Again, why are there no actual 24-hour emergency dentists available, especially in a major metropolitan area like Kansas City?

The fourth dentist office we tried is Joy Miller, DDS. She happens to also be my wife’s regular dentist (and after this incident, soon to be mine as well). My wife called in and asked if they could squeeze me in. After making it clear over the phone that all I was immediately wanting was having the tooth fracture examined to see where to go from there, they agreed to see me. After determining the extent of the damage — thankfully it looked worse than it actually was — we scheduled a follow-up procedure. Only thing of immediate concern was just having what felt like a sharp edge ground down so it wasn’t scraping against my tongue.

Again, though, we need actual 24-hour emergency dental clinics available, or hospitals need to have at least one on staff. And if a clinic advertises themselves as able to take dental emergencies, they better be able to take dental emergencies, meaning if a patient walks in with an emergency — which I believe a tooth fracture qualifies — they shouldn’t be told to come back on Tuesday.