I’m a Dad and a Dentist: Why You Should Not Avoid the Dentist During the Pandemic
This is an independent opinion. Have an opinion of your own? Write it! Email it to [email protected]
We have all had to make significant adjustments this year. And like most of you, my life has been dramatically impacted by this pandemic. Although I cannot advise on every subject, there is one thing I am fiercely aware of and that is the importance of good oral care.
While most of the country has been trying to decipher what to do about the current school year, those of us in the dental field are dealing with inconsistencies of our own. In early August, the World Health Organization released interim guidance advising routine, non-essential oral healthcare be postponed, because of COVID-19 transmission rates. Less than two weeks later, the American Dental Association released a statement arguing it “respectfully, yet strongly disagrees.” The inconstant recommendations are adding confusion, and I am afraid these mixed messages will hurt our children. Here is why I believe the WHO is wrong about oral health care during this pandemic.
Dentists are Equipped to Handle this Crisis
As a dad myself, I know how much parents want to protect their children, but as a dentist, I can assure you we are experts in dealing with infectious disease, dating back to the 1980s during the HIV/AIDS crisis. Offices nationwide were already using universal standard precautions before the pandemic began. And a large majority have now stepped up safety protocols, revamping them to strengthen ventilation, sanitation procedures and personal protective equipment. In fact, we have had an impeccable safety track record. Dental offices reopened in mid-May and, to date, there has been no evidence of COVID-19 transmission between patients and offices.
Your Child’s Dental Issues Will Linger and Worsen
The WHO’s statement seemingly ignored the fact that dental and orthodontic problems do not just pause because we have a pandemic. Oral issues are likely to get worse in all areas of dentistry as we wait for a medical breakthrough for COVID-19. This is especially true with children since enamel is thinner on baby teeth and they are more susceptible to cavities. Additionally, children’s mouths and faces are growing, and we have a window of opportunity, during which we can get ideal treatment results and once that window closes, results may be significantly compromised.
Oral Health Improves a Child’s Potential for Success
California is among several other states requiring a dental screening by a dentist before children can attend public schools. This is because children’s oral health can profoundly impact their school performance. How? Children needing dental care are three times more likely to miss school, and those with toothaches are four times more likely to have a below average GPA. Children with dental pain have difficulty getting quality sleep; and poor sleep can hinder their alertness, and their behavior and memory at school are negatively impacted. Kids with toothaches avoid hard-to-chew fruits and vegetables that are so critical for their oral, physical, and mental development. And can you believe, 51 million hours of school is missed every year by kids due to dental problems. That was pre-COVID. Children are missing school even more during the pandemic. Perhaps the most heartbreaking of all is that one of the biggest reasons kids get teased or bullied is their teeth.
To my fellow parents, I am right there with you. These are challenging times. But I urge you to not complicate things further by ignoring your child’s, or your own, oral health care. What bothers me most about the WHO’s recent recommendations is that it plays with parents’ emotions. For those parents who have been on the fence, the WHO’s statement created unnecessary apprehension, lessening the likelihood that they will seek the care they need. I am here to tell you as someone who straddles both sides of this issue; they were wrong. Go to the dentist!