The events of the last 12 months have been devastating for countless people all over the world. The COVID-19 virus has taken a toll on each of us in different ways, but it’s also created some alarming trends, one of which we’ve seen first-hand here at Bunker Hill Dentistry: people delaying medical checkups. And unfortunately, this is causing the effects of the pandemic to be even worse than they would otherwise be. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of American adults had delayed or avoided medical care by June of 2020, with one-third avoiding routine care. The rates of screenings for different types of cancers plunged. The result of delayed diagnoses of cancer and other major illnesses is as tragic as it is certain: many patients who could’ve overcome their illnesses thanks to early detection will die. And even though death due to a dental problem is rare, I want to encourage both our patients and everyone else out there that dental checkups are both safe and extremely important, and to implore you not to wait for a check up, whether you come see us or your own dentist. The stakes are just too high. COVID-19 and Dental Health Dental health has been negatively affected, too. Cavities have developed, bone structure loss has worsened, and cysts and tumors have escaped detection. Moreover, the stress from everything that’s going on has people beating up their teeth like never before. A recent poll found more than 50 percent rises in teeth grinding, chipped teeth, and jaw pain known as TMD. What’s worse, there are anecdotal reports by COVID-19 sufferers that have surfaced of gum infections, decay, and even teeth falling out. As a dentist, seeing all of this is heartbreaking for me, knowing that so much of this suffering is unnecessary. I must agree with the American Dental Association’s (ADA) stance that “oral health is integral to overall health,” as it made known in its recent statement disagreeing with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation that some patients delay “routine” dental care due to COVID-19. The ADA respectfully yet strongly disagrees with the World Health Organization’s recommendation to delay “routine” dental care in certain situations due to COVID-19, citing that dentistry is essential health care. Read the full statement: https://t.co/viHOm9VSDi pic.twitter.com/Zlu4i4aENT — ADA (@AmerDentalAssn) August 12, 2020 These are not empty words from the ADA; the connection between poor oral health and a wide range of illnesses and diseases is well-established. Conversely, much is still unknown about COVID-19. As we all develop new systems and routines for dealing with the threat of coronavirus, we must make certain that these new methodologies don’t come at the expense of our overall health. How Bunker Hill Dentistry Protects You During Your Visit We understand that for some patients, concern about sanitation in a dentist’s office may have kept you from coming in for checkups. But the truth is dentists recognize better than most the importance of sanitation, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one who isn’t going to great lengths to safeguard your health during visits. Industry organizations such as the Texas Dental Association and the ADA are advising members in best practices for operating during the pandemic, and myself and many others are continually monitoring the latest guidance. Of course, if you visited us prior to 2020, you may recall that long before anyone had heard the name “COVID-19,” we already had rigorous cleaning practices throughout our office in place. To the extent that we could make our protocols even more extensive, we have done so. Safety measures include: The use of industrial-grade sanitizing wipes after every patient on chairs and equipment, and throughout the waiting area. The use of a sterilization unit in which all equipment and tools are disinfected twice, then dried and heated up to 800 degrees to kill bacteria and viruses. Keeping all equipment in a stainless-steel cassette to protect the instruments. Masks or face shields and gloves worn by all staff at all times. Health screening patients and employees upon entry. Social distancing via staggered appointments and a carefully arranged waiting area. Hand sanitizer available throughout the office and used repeatedly by staff. Our custom-built sterilization area – all instruments are carefully scrubbed, ultrasonically cleaned, fan dried, and sterilized in a Midmark MD11 autoclave. Here’s to a Healthy Mouth in 2021 I know that many of the sources of stress and anxiety that weighed on you last year may still be there, and that’s all the more reason to be proactive in protecting your health. Not only is prevention better than cure when it comes to oral health, getting regular checkups makes more economic sense, too. What might be prevented early with a relatively inexpensive solution such as a filling or night guard may require a treatment in the thousands of dollars if you wait too long. A guiding principle of our practice has always been to make our office a relaxing, stress-free environment, and in times like these we are focusing on that mission more than ever. Even if you choose not to come into our offices, I urge you to get a check-up somewhere. Our mission has always been to see people have and maintain healthy smiles, and we’re not going to let even a pandemic stand in our way! -Dr. Tri M Le , DDS A practicing dentist since 1987, Dr. Le has been running successful dental practices in Texas with his wife Ann since 1990. A member of the ADA, AACD and AADSM, Dr. Le has also contributed to several leading dental journals. Read more about Dr. Le.