No one had any idea when the ball dropped in Times Square at the end of 2019, what 2020 would have in store for them. While most people hoped for a year filled with prosperity and joy, a global pandemic that would take millions of lives and essentially shut everything down was far from what anyone was thinking. However, that is exactly what happened, and, unfortunately, those shutdowns closed many dental practices and contributed to many dental health issues that many are still working to address. The dental team at New Leaf Rohnert Park understands the stress that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on our patients, but we are here to help you address all your dental concerns in a safe and comfortable atmosphere.
Timeline: COVID-19 and the dental care system
We weren’t far into 2020 before the World Health Organization (WHO) broke the news on January 9th of a mysterious virus in Wuhan, China. On January 21st, the CDC confirmed the first coronavirus case in the United States. By January 31st, WHO issued a global health emergency. Unfortunately, the pandemic just got worse from there. The timeline below shows how the pandemic progressed in the United States and how it affected the dental industry:
- February 3, 2020 – the United States declared Public Health Emergency
- March 11, 2020 – WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic
- March 13, 2020 – President Donald Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency
- March 16, 2020 – the American Dental Association recommended emergency-only
- dental services and dental offices close to regular care across the country
- March 19, 2020 – California becomes the first state to issue a stay-at-home order
While this was just the start, businesses and dental offices remained closed for months before states began lifting restrictions. Unfortunately, that extended period of emergency-only dental services left many patients with serious oral health issues and many dental practices closing their doors forever.
Effects of dental office closures
Both patients and dental practices felt the effects of COVID-19 dental office closures. Reports show that dental services dropped 75% in March 2020 and 79% in April 2020 compared to previous years. In August of 2020, an American Dental Association poll showed that 98.9% of dentists were open, but only 47.6% reported business as usual, causing many practices to close their doors around the world.
With dental offices closing, patients were unable to access routine and necessary care. Scheduled exams and dental cleanings were canceled. Periodontal care for gum disease was postponed. Dental decay was left to progress, leading to cavities and no available treatment. However, even after dental offices began reopening, people were still too concerned about the potential risk of COVID-19 to attend any dental appointments. This has, unfortunately, led to a serious dental impact on many Americans.
Oral health impact due to limited dental care access
With the nationwide motto for 2020 and parts of 2021 being “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” many patients choose to postpone dental appointments even as dental offices began returning to normal operations. Unfortunately, this has led to increases in oral concerns and a decline in oral health for many patients.
The American Dental Association recommends everyone see a dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and checkups. These routine appointments are essential for good oral care as they allow the dentist to detect early oral concerns, help remove plaque and tartar that can contribute to dental caries and gum disease, as well as to detect oral cancer and other health problems in the early stages.
COVID has kept many from attending these routine checkups and following through on planned treatments for already detected concerns. Dentists see an increase in dental caries and periodontal disease after the start of COVID and a reduction in routine care. In addition, they are seeing an increase in stress-related oral health conditions, such as bruxism, chipped and cracked teeth, and TMJ as patients struggle with the stress of COVID-19, the loss of employment, and other additional stressors. In fact, we addressed the connection between COVID stress and jaw pain here.
Now is the time to focus on your oral health
The COVID pandemic has left many people struggling both physically and mentally. However, the good news is things are finally beginning to return to normal. Now is the perfect time to think about your oral health. At New Leaf Rohnert Park, we understand these times have been difficult. We understand your apprehension about going anywhere during the pandemic, but we also understand the importance of regular dental care and good oral health. Our caring professionals are committed to your safety when it comes to COVID protocols and doing everything to help ensure you have a beautiful and healthy smile. Contact us online today or call the office at (707) 586-1549 to schedule an appointment so we can help get you back on the road to optimal oral health.