Don’t forget about that trip to the dentist

The pandemic has pushed a lot of people's checkups back, and some have even forgotten it.

Ah, yes. The timeless, and occasionally cringeworthy, soundtrack of the dentist’s office.

Sorry if you’re not a fan, but it’s just been a while since a lot of Americans have had the chance to sit in the chair and listen.

For Dr. Albert Mendez, D.D.S., it all started last spring when, other than for emergency appointments, his office was forced to close for six weeks because of the pandemic.

“Poor Karen, our receptionist, had to spend so much time rescheduling people because they kept saying two weeks, two weeks, they kept extending it. So that required her to recall people.”

Karen tells us they had to reschedule close to one thousand appointments. When they first reopened, hygienists like Rachel were initially seeing double their daily number of patients. Dr. Mendez says they’ve been able to see a lot of them, but it still presents its challenges.

“Because we’re seeing the regular scheduled patients plus the other ones that we’ve been working in and cycles have changed, so yeah it’s a little difficult.”

In regaining their rhythm, his office has also noticed the impact of the pandemic — both right behind the mask.

“Dry mouth, dry lips, and zits, all that,” Mendez tells us. “We’re seeing that with pretty much all age groups, teenage on.”

As well as in their patients’ smiles.

“With the COVID and the lockdown and all those things, people have been under a lot of stress. So we find a lot of people having jaw problems, jaw problems, teeth problems, broken teeth because they’ve been clenching and grinding and stressing out. So that’s another thing that we’ve been seeing.”

The past year has also raised concerns about the oral health of kids around the country. A national poll shows the majority of parents say they haven’t seen their kids care for their pearly whites improve, and 1/3 of parents say COVID-19 has made it difficult to make a dentist appointment for their child.

To help families improve those statistics, campaigns like Delta Dental’s Land of Smiles program — which typically visits hundreds of schools in Missouri each year — have made their educational program available for free online.

Like your dentist, they stress the difference that the little things like brushing and flossing can make.

“When a child has pain in their teeth, it limits them and it won’t let them be a child. It won’t let them learn, they can’t talk,” says Stacy Harris with Delta Dental. “They can’t eat the way they should. So we really want to take that pain away by encouraging them to visit their dentist and also encouraging good oral health habits.”

“Our big job, yes, is to make sure teeth are cleaning and gums are healthy, but it’s to educate, remind, brush, floss, take care of those things on a regular basis. When you do it on a regular basis, then the big things usually don’t show up unexpectedly.”

Click here to learn more about Delta Dental’s Land of Smiles program.