WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — Dustin Hatfield can’t even remember the last time he went to the dentist.
“It has been a while. I wish I could tell you. But it’s been too long," Hatfield said.
Many dental offices closed for routine cleanings and checkups when the pandemic first started, and many patients are playing catch-up in dealing with problems.
“I know I have some issues. That’s why I’m here to get that taken care of. A lot of places were closed, then it’s a matter of finding a place that you trust,” said Hatfield.
Dr. Ronak Parikh at Bay Breeze Dental said many of his patients haven’t been to the dentist in almost two years.
“Because they are worried about exposure. They are worried about risks. The other part is sometimes it’s been so long they just don’t want to know until something hurts,” said Dr. Parikh.
The American Dental Association reports almost 70% of Florida dentists have seen an increase in cases of tooth grinding and cracking. Dr. Parikh said it’s often related to stress.
“Sometimes when you are wearing a mask it almost causes you to be tense. So being able to identify that and explain to patients that 'hey is there something stressful going on in their life?' And every time I ask that question, everyone goes, 'isn’t that everyone’s life right now?'”
Another problem he’s seeing is what happens when routine cavities are neglected.
“As things are getting further along, they stop being just fillings and they start needing root canals, crowns, or even extraction,” said Parikh.
Dr. Parikh said all these issues are even worse for children. He recommends getting looked at as soon as possible.
“If it’s already starting to feel like it’s hurting a little bit. It’s only going to get worse," Dr. Parikh said.