Fear of COVID keeps patients’ away from dental clinics resulting in an increased need of treatment

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Observably, the COVID-19 pandemic hit a pause button on many of our routine activities, including regular visits to the dentist. When the pandemic peaked, health authorities put restrictions in place for dental care, and dental clinics saw only emergency cases and advised patients to wait when it came to non-essential or non-urgent procedures including regular check-ups, cleaning, fillings, etc., which resulted in a substantial drop in the preventive dental care visits of oral patients across India.

Lt Gen. Dr Vimal Arora, Chief Clinical Officer, Clove Dental said, “Oral Health data in India says that 8 out of 10 Indians suffer from some or the other kind of dental diseases which clearly reflects that Oral & Dental Health has always been deprioritized even in pre-COVID times. However, with this pandemic people have further delayed their dental visits for past 10 months, the result of which is that the oral health conditions which could have been handled with simple cavity filling, now need RCT & Crowning and even extraction in some cases leading to loss of tooth. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare estimates that currently (2019), about 60% of India’s adult population and 70% of its school-going children are affected by dental caries (cavities) or tooth decay. And, periodontal disease — infections of the tissue around the teeth — has ended up affecting at least 85% of the population. The country is also considered the world capital for oral cancer. Of the total body cancers, Oral cancers accounts for over 30% of all body cancers.”

Drop in Dental Care

“The drop in dental visits of dental patients across India has been significant which is going to be costing more money and more pain to the patients. Clove clinics across the country were seeing approximately 45,000 patients every month(in pre COVID times); which during the corresponding months of year 2020 reduced to just 20%. The pan India data shows that during the first quarter of the pandemic in June 2020, the patient’s visits across the country was 9,549 – quite low compared to 45,979 of June 2019. Likewise, in July 2020, it was 13,784 and in Oct 2020 it was 23,591. The Oct’ – Dec’ 2020 quarter has now witnessed a gradual rise in the number of patients’ visits across the country”, Lt Gen Arora added.

Dr Anirudh Singh, General Manager, Clove Dental, South West India said, “Traditionally, check-ups are recommended every six months. But people often ignore this, which leads to the severity of the dental problems demanding expensive treatments and care. According to the draft National Oral Health Policy, the proportion of untreated caries of permanent teeth and severe periodontitis is the maximum compared to other oral disorders. Yet, only 12.4% of adults have ever had their mouth examined by a dentist. Routine check-ups are the part of preventive treatments. However, due to COVID, preventive treatments have gone down by 63.7%, as the patient visits have declined. As COVID has prompted the delay in treatments, we see the need for more restorative treatments now. Therefore, prioritising dental care is as important as any other healthcare problems.”

On safety of dental clinics relating to spread of COVID, Lt Gen. Dr Vimal Arora, Chief Clinical Officer, Clove Dental quoted that “Clove Clinics have been the safest during past 9 months and our doctors believed fully in the disinfection & sterilisation processes adopted by the clinics and therefore they felt safe while working in Clove Dental clinics. Further, they could reinforce with confidence to their patients of the safety of the clinics due to the preventive measures in place”. In a survey conducted amongst the Clove patients (160 responses); 98.8% patients felt completely safe at the Clove clinics during their visit during the pandemic”

A fundamentally different approach is required to effectively tackle the global burden of oral diseases. The public health problems associated with oral diseases are a serious burden in every nation around the globe. What is lacking is the awareness to the disease and the information as to what all poor oral health can create in the body. Excellent dental health is the gateway for the overall body health; is the true slogan. 

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