Are Vermonters still visiting the dentist during the pandemic?

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 4:38 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2021 at 8:04 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Since being allowed to reopen, dentists have been trying to make sure people are sticking to their appointments and taking their oral care seriously.

According to the Vermont State Dental Society, they are seeing widespread issues.

“I’m hearing from other dentists -- and it’s not just Vermont -- patients are a little bit nervous, they are pushing things off. I think there is some financial insecurity, as well,” said Dr. Loren Peck, the president of the Vermont State Dental Society.

Peck says some people are apprehensive about their regularly scheduled cleanings and he understands that. But he says he wants people to know they are heavily regulated by the health department, the CDC, and the American Dental Association. Peck says when in doubt, communication is key.

“[People] should consider contacting their provider if they have those worries and getting what those individual providers and what the office situation looks like,” said Peck.

Timberlane Dental in Burlington says their clients are generally sticking to their appointments, but they also say that doesn’t mean everyone is taking perfect care of their teeth.

“Yes, I think Chittenden County seems to be doing reasonably well at this point,” said Dr. Lauren Gulka, a pediatric dentist with Timberlane.

She says while the Chittenden County residents they work with have generally been keeping their appointments, there are aspects of oral health they are watching.

“We rely on people sort of having that snack, mealtime, with a big break in between to help self cleanse and self recover,” Gulka said.

She says while people are at home with easy access to the refrigerator and pantry, grazing is becoming common, meaning schedules for eating are breaking up.

“I think it’s harder for people to maintain that brushing when you get up, the brushing after lunch, the brushing before bedtime,” said Gulka.

That has lead to the biggest issue her office is dealing with, a minor uptick in cavities.

Dr. Tyler Aten, the owner of Green Mountain Dental and St. Albans Dental, is also seeing a backlog of patients and says getting in emergency appointments has been tough. Aten says some dentists weren’t able to reopen or have retired due to COVID, so he recommends reaching out because many offices are taking new patients. He says they have also noted two other small trends.

“The biggest things I have noticed anyways are gum disease. Home care kind of slacks a little bit when people sleep in or are working from home, I think we have all experienced that a little bit. And then also stress-related tooth grinding. We have probably made more night guards and dealt with more stress-related tooth fractures this year than we probably have had in the last three years,” said Aten.

While there might be a slight backlog of people returning to the office, Gulka says once you are in, you can feel confident COVID-wise that you will leave as healthy as when you came in.

“I think, generally speaking in the dental community, we have done pretty well,” said Gulka.

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