Iowans still reluctant to visit their dentist over COVID-19 concerns

Alonzo Osche

Almost a year into the pandemic, 1 in 5 Iowans are still delaying oral health care procedures.

DES MOINES, Iowa — It has probably never been many people’s favorite thing to do, but now, even fewer people are going to see their dentist.

Nearly a year after the pandemic first hit, the Iowa Dental Association says that 20{20335960d828ac45ef5fde98a5aa7f4c1fb21de0715bafc997f46433d5bf3454} of their patients haven’t returned.  The association’s president-elect Dr. Zachary Kouri said fears over COVID-19 are keep some patients away.

“I believe we’re safer than going to a grocery store; I believe we’re safer than going into a gas station or any place public. Because we know what we’re doing; infection control is nothing new to us,” said Dr. Kouri.

In fact, according to Dr. Kouri, there have been no COVID-19-related outbreaks in any dental office in the United States.

Krys Rankin, who’s been a patient of at the Ingersoll Dental Group for more than 15 years, said the office’s pandemic protocols gave her confidence.

“Pretty much when the pandemic hit that they had a letter of–here’s the lowdown, here’s how we’re doing stuff, let’s make sure we follow these. And I was like, ‘Awesome,'” she said.

Rankin was also worried about the long-term effects of staying away too long.

“At least for me, I realized that maintenance is really important when it comes to your healthcare…that if you’re not maintaining and doing things regularly, that you could really run the risk of missing something, or jeopardizing something,” she said.

That’s what Dr. Kouri is worried about for his patients.

“So there’s really not a reason to wait much longer to come in. I’ve heard recently they’re waiting for vaccines. But as a vaccine role is kind of slow, I don’t know if that’s a very judicious way to go about your oral health care,” he said.

While some polls have suggested that dentists believe there will be a surge of patients needing appointments, Dr. Kouri doesn’t believe that will happen here in Iowa.

“We might get busier, I don’t think we’re gonna get busy enough to be able to not be able to handle the patient load. Most likely, because I think people one by one, as they feel more comfortable, [will] start coming in over time,” he said.

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