I-TEAM: Has the pandemic pushed your dental visit back?
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We’ve all probably put off something in the past year, and for a lot of us that something is a trip to the dentist.
Our I-Team found the pandemic is having an effect on our oral health in more ways than one.
There’s never really a ‘good’ time for a global pandemic, but Corliss Lewis considers herself lucky.
“I had to have a tooth removed, but it was on a nerve. It was one of the ones, especially for my age I had to get removed.”
She and other students at the Augusta University dental school removed it right before the lockdown started last March.
“I probably would’ve gone insane, knowing the procedure I had to have,” she said.
She’s just now getting back for her follow-up, nearly a year later.
The pandemic has affected just about every aspect of our healthcare systems and Dr. Brooke Usry, owner of North Augusta Dental Care says dentistry is no exception.
“My schedule was pretty backed up because I had to cancel so many patients,” Usry said.
Unexpected schedule changes have become expected, and her next new patient opening isn’t until July.
“So, we will be full and then the day before or the day of, we have a lot of patients fall off. I’m talking up to 18 in one day.”
A study by nextsmiledental.com found 63 percent of Georgians and 67 percent of South Carolinians have delayed routine dental check-ups during the pandemic.
“Not all of the patients that we see have trickled back in yet. So, it’ll be interesting,” Dr. Allen Furness said
Dr. Furness is the assistant dean of patient services at the Augusta University dental school.
Patients drive from all over the state for their student clinics, but during the pandemic, their patient numbers dropped significantly.
Our I-Team requested data and found more than a 44percent drop-in dental appointments at AU from 2019 to 2020.
More surprising even with emergency clinics open as patients also seemed to delay emergency dental care during the pandemic. The emergency treatment dropped by more than 37 percent overall.
The American Association of Endodontists reported 25 percent of people said they waited until later in the morning to brush their teeth, while 21 percent of people admitted they completely stopped brushing in the morning.
This is concerning especially to dentists since a lot of us have been turning to comfort foods.
“When people are stressed, their diet kind of changes to eating a lot of rich carbs which can promote decay,” Furness explained.
Some of those problems will become more apparent as patients start to trickle back in from those missed routine appointments, but something Dr. Furness says he’s already seeing is more broken teeth.
“Patients have expressed just the continual change and it’s taking effect on their teeth. A lot of people clench and grind. It’s not uncommon,” he said.
Are you clenching your jaw right now? Are your teeth touching? Dr. Furness says they shouldn’t be unless you’re eating.
“Teeth are only designed to be engaged a few minutes a day.”
So, if you’ve been under a lot of stress, it may be a good idea to have your dentist look to see if they spot any red flags.
And the encouraging news as more of us are getting vaccinated and looking to catch up on those missed appointments.
With all of the extra PPE and CDC guidance in place, dental offices are practicing more safety precautions than ever.
“One of the things we’ve noticed is there hasn’t really been any covid spread at all within the school. It seems to be all coming in from the community,” Dr. Furness said.
“We have 12 people who work here and not one of us have been sick. But, for the grace of God,” Usry said.
“I feel confident--I know they’ve taken preventative measures,” Lewis said.
With a lot of dental offices backlogged as more people venture back to the dentist, getting scheduled for an appointment has been a struggle for some of you.
And not to mention the loss of jobs and dental insurance complicating things.
We asked AU, and they do have openings in their low-cost student clinics for new patients. Rural Health Services has also opened appointments for dental patients.
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