Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, dentists were struggling to get patients to come in for regular check-ups. The issue of patients avoiding dental care increased exponentially during lockdown, and the industry is still attempting to regain lost ground in this area.
Aside from the usual fears of pain and having strange implements stuck in their mouths, many patients have reported being worried about contracting Covid-19 while visiting a dentist due to the close proximity in which a dentist works to a patient’s facial area. Concerns have also been raised in respect to longer procedures, such as root canals, as prolonged exposure to someone with Covid can lead to increased risk of being infected. A further worry for many patients has been surgery. Although even the most commonplace surgery has always had some level of risk associated with it, since Covid, many patients have opted to forego optional procedures as they do not wish to spend unnecessary time in a hospital.
While patient concerns are not without cause, prolonged neglect of oral health can have serious consequences – ranging from cavities and gingivitis through to issues such as heart or kidney disease, or even diabetes. As a result, the dental industry, as a whole, has been forced to investigate and invest in alternative strategies to ensure that patients seek out necessary oral treatments, including limiting aerosol generating procedures and avoiding surgical solutions in favour of more preventative approaches.
Despite the industry working towards such alternative solutions, the general public still tends to remain relatively uninformed of these kinds of developments. Education is, therefore, necessary, not only in terms of what dentists can practically do to lower infection risks, reduce pain during procedures, and avoid surgery options as far as possible, but also in terms of what negative long-term consequences can arise from neglecting oral care.