Since the beginning of the pandemic, many normal aspects of everyday life have been put on hold — including dental checkups. For months dental offices were closed, or available only for dental emergencies. Now dental offices are opening again, with new health and protocols to help protect patients and employees.
While regular appointments were cancelled or postponed, oral health remains a top concern for many people. According to a dental study conducted by Guardian Life, some adults who were unable to access regular preventive care stepped up their efforts to improve their own oral health at home. On average, 20% of those surveyed reported making changes to their oral health habits, mostly for the better. Many reported practicing increased flossing,brushing more frequently and thoroughly as well as eating a healthier diet.
Given restricted access to preventive care during early 2020, many patients now feel ready to schedule exams. Many said they anticipated returning to the dentist in September. Yet, survey respondents all expressed the need for increased safety precautions to reduce their anxiety around in person visits, along with enhanced communication with their dental office.
While nearly 3 in 10 adults said they’re more anxious about visiting the dentist since the outbreak, the majority of adults (52%) claimed that their level of anxiety about visiting the dentist did not change due to the pandemic. Patients planning to visit their dentist soon ranked using protective equipment and physical distancing or limiting the number of patients in the office as their top concerns.
What you can do to maintain good oral health:
Keep up with regular dental checkups. The American Dental Association (ADA) currently recommends dental visits at least once every six months to maintain oral health and to detect issues early. While 8 in 10 adults believe oral health is important, many do not receive regular preventive dental care. Even before the pandemic began, less than half (45%) received semiannual exams.
“Oral health is connected to our overall health, underscoring the importance of maintaining regular dental exams for preventive care,” said Dr. Randi S. Tillman, Chief Dental Officer, Guardian Life. “Dental offices nationwide are working hard to keep visits safe for you and your families, so now is the perfect time to get caught up on preventive care. The dental profession has always been strongly committed to infection control protocols, and now more than ever, practices are in strict compliance with CDC guidelines.”
Contact your dentist. Find out their current hours, appointment availability and their health and safety protocols. Ask questions like:
- What protective gear are you requiring for employees and patients?
- How are you limiting patients in the waiting room?
Over 1 in 3 survey respondents said it was vital for their dental office to communicate their safety measures to make them feel more comfortable about returning to the dentist.
Learn about teledentistry options. Teledentistry, digital communication and online self-service tools are now significantly more accessible from dentists. Many providers can consult with patients using electronic means like video conferencing to monitor patient oral health and discuss specific concerns.
According to the survey:
- 1 in 6 adults reported feeling more positive about teledentistry since the pandemic, viewing tool.
- Nearly 1 in 4 were open to using teledentistry, even after dentists started seeing patients again.
- Millennials and working parents were the most likely to use teledentistry in the future.
- Parents were more likely to use teledentistry for their child than themselves, both during and after the pandemic.
Overall, there was increased interest in using electronic communication with dental offices, both for setting appointments and consultations. A higher percentage said they preferred to use texting and online chat.
While most respondents were unaware if their provider even offered teledentistry services or whether teledentistry was covered by their dental insurance, more than one-third said they would be open to trying teledentistry. Some said they favored it over traditional in person visits for certain conditions and situations — such as when physically unable to go in person due to caring for young children or an elderly parent, or because of work schedules.
Need dental coverage for your family? Learn more about dental insurance at www.guardianlife.com/dental-insurance.
# # #
Unless otherwise noted, the source of all information is from the 2020 Guardian’s Workplace Benefits Study titled “Dental Benefits 2020”
©Copyright 2020 The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, N.Y.GUARDIAN® is a registered service mark of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America®
2020-106908 (Exp. 8/22)