Dentists are warning that putting off a dental appointment out of fear of catching Covid-19 is likely to lead to troubles later, as problems go undetected.
According to the sector, appointments have been down by 15-20% since March, when the pandemic started to take held in Belgium. Even after lockdown rules were relaxed, and simple hygiene precautions became embedded in people’s habits, people are still putting off a visit to the dentist.
The result, according to one dentist, has been the resurgence of complications unseen since the 1970s.
APAD, the association of dentists in French-speaking Belgium, stresses that dental surgeries have been rigorous in their hygiene since long before the virus that causes Covid-19 was ever thought of.
“I think the root of the fear was that we are working on the mouth,” commented Daphné Dujardin of APAD, speaking to RTL. “People say to themselves that this is the main source of contamination, so we put on masks. Yet the dentist is very well-equipped, with a mask. a head-covering, a lab-coat – so it is not the dentist who is going to contaminate anyone.”
In addition, like family doctors, dentists are now scheduling appointments so that there is as little cross-over of patients as possible, so full waiting rooms are unlikely. Patients are advised to arrive as close to the exact time as possible, to avoid unnecessary contact.
Cancelling or delaying appointments is not only unnecessary and costly – anyone who has not seen a dentist in the past year is liable to a surcharge – but also risky.
Problems with the teeth do not go away by themselves, and when eventually a consultation becomes unavoidable, the problem will only be worse.
According to dentist Fabrice Bolland, dentists these days are being confronted with “complications that no-one has seen since the 1970s” – and which many younger dentists will never have seen at all outside of the textbooks.
“These complications include abscesses, inflammation, gum infections and a series of pretty incredible things. Such complications would not occur if patients came for normal treatment,” he said.