EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WWLP) – Seeing the dentist has been a lot different during this pandemic.
They check your temperature, have you complete a COVID-19 questionnaire, not to mention all the new devices and gear they have to protect themselves around their patients. Even as health care workers, dentists are at the bottom of the state’s Phase 1 vaccine plan.
They’ve watched on as dentists in Connecticut and other states received the COVID-19 vaccine in the first week of 2021.
“Its frustrating not having the communication from the state,” said Dr. Frank Michitti, Dentist at Lifetime Dental Care in Feeding Hills. “Its also frustrating seeing neighboring states have their dentists vaccinated.”
“Lady luck has been on my side and I hope it continues,” said Dr. Kevin Coughlin, Dentist at Ascent Dental Care in East Longmeadow. “For some dental offices they haven’t been as fortunate. I don’t see an easy solution except mass vaccination.”
Dr. Coughlin in East Longmeadow has a Connecticut License so he was able to get vaccinated, but not the rest of his team. Meanwhile, other local dentists have been shutting down their offices due to so many people pushing off their cleanings, and the costs of PPE.
“Prices on the supply chain have gone through the roof, so that has been one source of frustration,” said Dr. Frank Michitti.
“Everyday I receive new patients where their dental office isn’t open, and they are unable to be open, said Dr. Coughlin.
Dr. Coughlin told the 22News I-Team delaying appointments could lead to detrimental health outcomes, and this is something that extends beyond just dental care.
“There are people not receiving routine care and treatment and there will be ramifications for that, not just in dental, but the overall health field,” said Dr. Coughlin. “So prevention is even worse now.”
The 22News I-Team found out that some offices are now charging an added $10 PPE fee.
Dr. Coughlin said dentists are down, on average, 30 percent in patient volume right now, but that is much better than the first few months of the pandemic, when it was nearly 80 percent.
The expectation right now is that dentists in Massachusetts will be vaccinated by next month. The state’s biggest dental insurance provider, Delta Dental, has sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker demanding that dentists get vaccinated sooner. The Massachusetts Dental Society also wants clarity from the state on how and if dental offices will be administering vaccines.