Survey finds fewer Iowans are going to the dentist during COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 10:38 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A nationwide survey found more Americans, including Iowans, are putting off trips to the dentist’s office during the pandemic.

Among Iowans who responded to a survey from NextSmile Dental, 56% of them admit they have delayed dental appointments since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Dr. Paula Kral, a dentist at Dental Health Partners in Cedar Rapids, said patients at her office have been keeping their appointments.

“Between 2019 July and 2020 July, we really saw no drop-off or any changes, and it’s been the same here in January from last January as well,” she said.

But she says they have seen the effects of delayed care, after a statewide emergency order closed dental offices for non-emergency visits for two months last year.

“I had patients that were mid-treatment when we had to shut down, and I had several patients that then either got recurrent decay or had a bigger problem by the end of just the two months,” Dr. Kral said.

The American Dental Association advises dental care should continue as normal during the pandemic, with staff and patients wearing appropriate PPE.

Dr. Kral said offices like hers follow even more guidelines from the Iowa Dental Board, including health screening questions and temperature checks when patients arrive for their appointments.

“It’s probably one of the safest places in town,” she said.

One in five people who responded to the NextSmile Dental survey said they would delay care, as long as they weren’t in pain.

Dr. Kral said people shouldn’t do this.

“Cavities have to get very, very large before they hurt,” she said. “You may have a cavity. You could have gum disease, all of those things. Those things don’t stop just because you’re afraid to go to the dentist.”

If people are nervous about going to the dentist during the pandemic, Dr. Kral recommends they try to book the first appointment of the morning, before other patients arrive, or check if their dentist can see them separately.

She said dental offices are willing to work with patients to help them feel safe while getting the routine care they need.

“Waiting, especially if you’ve got a problem, you could wind up needing more extensive treatment than if you just go ahead and go,” Dr. Kral said.

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