Pandemic anxiety leads to long-term dental health issues

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The pandemic is causing harm to dental health.

West Michigan dentists are seeing an increase in more severe conditions from patients delaying care. Owner of Cascade Village Dental Lauryne Vanderhoof, DDS, says that can make problems more difficult to treat and more expensive to address.

“We have patients coming in who maybe needed a small filling and now they’re in pain. They’re coming in with a tooth emergency and something that was a simple procedure now needs a root canal, a crown or an extraction,” Vanderhoof said.

The dentist says some patients, especially with underlying conditions, are hesitant to seek care.

“There’s a lot of anxiety associated with coming to the dentist during the pandemic and so we still have patients who haven’t come back,” Vanderhoof said.

Margaret Gingrich, DDS, the former president of the Michigan Dental Association, says there is still a backlog of care.

Offices in the state closed for 10 weeks in 2020 to conserve personal protective equipment for COVID-19 patients, only providing emergency care.

“I noticed that when we originally closed down I was seeing patients for maybe a half a day for swellings, tooth aches, fractured teeth. By the end of the 10 weeks we were up to four days a week seeing emergency care,” Gingrich said.

The stress of the pandemic has also led to more people grinding their teeth.

“I actually have a lot more people fracturing teeth in two that are losing them where they’re coming in complaining of headaches sore jaws needing to have bite splints to wear,” Gingrich said.

Vanderhoof says dentists are taking steps to keep you safe from COVID-19 and are working to meet the need.

“I highly recommend people to come in and take care of their preventative needs so that they don’t have an infection or pain,” Gingrich said.