Dentists fear secondary health crisis

FOX Files

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO – Dentists are essential, but you still might not be able to get that necessary care during the pandemic. Monday the CDC recommended avoiding trips to the dentist, saying dentists are in a “very high exposure risk” category.

Some doctors and dentists now fear a secondary health crisis on the horizon.

Dr. Emily Hahn just started her practice at the Children’s Specialty Care Center in Town and Country. She started Skyview Pediatric Dentistry about five months ago. She’s had to remain empty almost half that time.

It was a tough decision for someone who took an oath to stop childhood dental disease.

“It’s more common than asthma. It’s more common than diabetes. Us dentists, especially pediatric dentists, are attempting to balance all of the guidelines,” said Dr. Hahn.

Dentists are essential. One set of guidelines, by the Missouri COVID-19 Dental Task Force, recommended dental clinics remain closed until this past Monday, May 4th.

“There are some people that opened Monday and they put out videos and have done things to show what they’ve done to protect the public and their staff. I personally am waiting to fully open just because I don’t know, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

She has a special room she can use to keep patients apart. She’s invested in air purifiers, but the reasons to remain closed are complex.

“Part of that was to help flatten the curve, that term that we heard, but it was also to make sure the front-line workers had that protective equipment that we also heard a lot about because dentists use a lot of it. Because when we open, we’re going to be using that equipment and we’ve been working diligently to get that.”

Meanwhile she’s concerned treatment delays will increase tooth decay.

“And in children, it moves – quick – and so it’s not elective to have a dental exam for a child. It’s something that every child should do, and determine how long we can wait before we are just seeing children who need extractions.” She continued, “We are concerned as dentists that there’s going to be a secondary health crisis if we are continue only seeing emergencies, and when we say emergencies it’s not – ‘oh, I have a loose tooth,’ – it’s ‘I have an abscess. I may need to go to the emergency room.’”

It’s a tough thing for Dr. Hahn to think about when part of her job is making children comfortable that the dentist isn’t scary.

Dr. Hahn emphasizes communication. Ask your dentist questions. She said they may not have all of the answers, but she believes talking through our efforts of finding the right thing to do is what’s going to get us through this time.

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