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Health Team

Over half of dental offices report COVID fear keeping patients from coming in

Posted November 2, 2020 5:52 p.m. EST
Updated November 5, 2020 9:50 a.m. EST

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, health experts have warned against avoiding regular checkups and emerging health concerns for fear of contracting the virus at a medical office.

Dentists in the Triangle say those same worries keep many from seeking regular care.

“I think it’s just that fear of the unknown,” said dentist Dr. Justin Russo. “The last time some of these people have gone into the dentist, it was a different vibe than what it is now.”

Russo said he has spent over $50,000 on masks, air filtration systems and oral suction tools to provide a safe environment, but he added that the fear is still there.

"Let’s face it, coronavirus is a droplet transmitted disease and what do you do in the dental office? You go in and you have work done in your mouth, and there’s air that’s blowing around and aerosols, and to people that’s pretty scary,” he added.

Scary enough that Morrisville dentist Dr. Tasha Hinton said almost 30 percent of her patients haven’t come back since the beginning of the pandemic.

"Before I came up here [on Monday,] they told me I had two cancellations on Wednesday because of the fear, so it’s there," she said.

The American Dental Association said as of Oct. 19, 98 percent of dental offices have reopened and 52 percent of those offices have reported seeing a lower patient volume.

"I have long-standing patients that are calling and saying, ‘Hey I want to wait. I don’t think I’m ready to come in yet.’ I respect that. I mean what else can you do?" Hinton said.

She added that, in total, they’ve had close to 30 cancelations, which may not seem like much, but for a small office that’s a big number, especially with the increased cost of equipment.

Hinton said it could get worse.

“The colder it gets, the more people are going inside to gather and some of them [are] doing it without masks, so that’s making the numbers go up,” she said.

Dentists said it’s a tricky situation – they know there is a fear of coronavirus and they understand that, but they also said waiting to long to go to the dentist can be dangerous and impact a patient’s overall health.

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