Visiting the dentist hasn’t been a priority for many Virginians since the onset of COVID-19.
Nearly one quarter (24%) of Virginia dental practices are seeing lower patient volume than usual, according to the July report from the Health Policy Institute at the American Dental Association (ADA). What’s more, more than a quarter (27%) of Virginia practices report patient volume is down by 15%-24%.
The Virginia Dental Association (VDA) – in concert with the Virginia Department of Health – has launched a campaign to encourage Virginians to return to the dentist. Public service announcements began airing on TV and radio stations throughout the commonwealth in August, reminding people that their oral health impacts their overall health and the importance of regular checkups.
“While many dental practices across Virginia have returned to their normal level of patient visits, many others are still reporting far fewer visits as patients have been slow to return since the pandemic started,” said Dr. Frank Iuorno, Jr., president of the Virginia Dental Association. “We want to encourage patients to get back into their routine of regular check-ups because our oral health is a vital part of our overall health.”
“If you haven’t seen a dentist lately, now is the time,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Daniel Carey. “And as of July, all Virginians in the Medicaid program can use their benefit to see the dentist. Whether it’s been six months or six years since you saw a dentist, the first step to taking care of your oral health is to call and schedule an appointment.”
Poor oral health and untreated periodontal disease can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, and periodontal disease and inflamed gums also can make it harder for diabetics to control their blood-sugar levels. The pandemic has contributed to an increase in cavities and periodontal disease, according to an ADA survey in the fall, among other dental conditions.
“We’re trending in the right direction, but we have work to do, especially in light of national reports about the increase in stress-related conditions such as teeth-grinding and clenching, chipped and cracked teeth, headaches and jaw pain,” Iuorno said.
The PSAs also highlight the new adult Medicaid benefit that began on July 1, enabling an additional 750,000 more Virginians to gain access to dental providers, and the safety of returning to the dentist – VDA members always have been at the forefront of infection control and have implemented new measures to ensure the safety of patients, dentists and team members.
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