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Dental visits down during pandemic, dentists urging people to stay on track

Dental offices seeing about 70% of normal visits
Posted at 4:48 PM, Nov 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 00:46:29-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on our daily lives in so many ways. One area some people may be ignoring is the impact the pandemic is having on our teeth.

Right now, dentists say the COVID-19 pandemic has some people feeling a little hesitant about coming in for their annual appointments.

"What we've seen is patients that because they have not been coming into the dentist, their dental conditions have gotten much worse. They weren't taking care of themselves. Maybe their diets have been altered, their routine, exercise essentials, had been thrown off. In other words, life for everyone had been put into turmoil," said owner of Guerra Dental in Colorado Springs Dr. Frederick Guerra.

Guerra says his dental office like many others is seeing a lot of patients put off those regular dental visits during the pandemic. Most dentists are seeing just 70% of their normal workload.

"We do have those patients that for whatever reason they're uncomfortable coming in and I think as dentists we just totally have to respect that," said Guerra. "The scary part is that by the time you're in severe pain or looking around to call the dentist, it's almost too late for that individual condition or tooth."

Since dental offices were locked down in March, work has been done to reopen and perform this essential service safely. Patients should expect safety measures from front office COVID-19 screenings to changes at the dental chair itself.

"We've almost taken on a little more operating room type environment in here to protect patients and keep our staff healthy," said Guerra.

According to American Dental Association research, less than 1% of dentists nationwide have had a confirmed or probable COVID-19 diagnosis.

"It has been working," said Guerra. "The research has shown any instances of transmission in dental offices are related to incidences that took place outside of the dental office."

When it comes to dental health itself, dentist Dr. Michael Allen told our news colleagues in Arizona he was seeing an uptick in cavities for patients who never had issues in the past.

"Maybe it's because they stayed home a lot more and they tend to snack all day long when they're home or drinking whatever beverages that they are that they wouldn't normally if they were going to work. Maybe they've gotten lazy and depressed. A lot of people are depressed right now. And so the last thing they want to do is floss and brush their teeth. Possibly it's because we're all wearing masks and it's drying our mouths out or something like that. And so we're not getting the normal cleansing.," said Allen, who is the owner of Sabino Family Dentistry.

"Mask mouth" concerns include bad breath, tooth decay, and gum inflammation, but the American Dental Association says its seen no evidence that masks are impacting our risk of cavities.

"There is no scientific data to support that at all," said Dr. Craig Armstrong of the American Dental Association. "I'm actually in contact with the chief science officer at the ADA and I've asked him that question point-blank and he says there is no evidence to support that."

Instead, many dentists fear a delay in regular dental care will be to blame for more problems.

"We know people that delay their oral health care, it leads to other organ system problems," said Guerra. "Cardiac, pulmonary, kidney, I mean it is a cascade of events. Issues that are going on in the mouth aren't just going to be limited to the mouth."

Dentists offer this advice to help you until your next dental visit:

- Stay hydrated to avoid dry mouth conditions that can cause problems
- Brush and floss regularly
- Get plenty of rest to help with stress
- Limit foods that stick to your teeth and produce cavities
- Even during this tough year, don't give up on your dental health.

"There's always hope," said Guerra. "The fact that they made it through that front door with those phobias and that they're in our chair is telling us, my staff, my front desk, my hygienist, my assistant, that they're here for help. They've made the first step towards getting their mouth rehabilitated and get it in a healthy condition. So we applaud them for that."

If you have dental questions you can contact Dr. Guerra's office at (719) 419-8678 or visit: https://www.guerradental.com/

Here is a list of other dental care providers in southern Colorado for your convenience:
Colorado Springs
Pueblo