PALM BEACH, Fla. — When was the last time you went for a dental checkup? And are you missing appointments because of COVID-19?
That's what some area dentists are asking.
One Delray Beach dentist said that since the delta variant ramped up, missed appointments have increased by 50 percent. Now there's a serious campaign happening both inside and out of some dentist offices.
Even amid the pandemic, Sharon Lowery has yet to miss an appointment with her dentist.
"Your teeth are important and they last you a lifetime," Lowery said. "It's also a personal choice."
Semi-annual check-ups are also an investment that some patients are willing to risk, according to Dr. Mitchell A. Josephs, DDS.
"A small cavity that could have been repaired and fixed for $400 could become a $5,000 or $10,000 issue. It could be an extraction, a bone graft, implant or crowns," Josephs said.
He's also taking calls from patients concerned about the delta variant, asking by phone if he and his staff are vaccinated and if they'd put up signs at the door detailing their status.
"You can't put a sign out on the door [regarding vaccination status.] You can't advertise on a website. It's against Florida state law," Josephs said. "And also if a patient comes into a medical or dental practice and starts asking staff members, 'Are you vaccinated?' They don't have to answer."
Dr. Flora Bentsi-Enchill, DDS, owner of Flora Dental said she, like Josephs, has instituted infection control measures and safety precautions to minimize harm to patients, themselves and staff.
"We have to be prepared to take care of patients who may or may not have COVID," Bentsi-Enchill said. "I had a very close friend of mine who was 44-years-old die, so for me, it was real."
Still, she estimates 50 percent of patients have put-off appointments once the delta variant made news.
"We've started to see a correlation with COVID and dental disease," she said. "If you have gum disease, diabetes, high blood pressure -- that puts you at a higher risk. You should be seeing your dentists minimally every six months, but every four months if you have those high-risk factors."
Both dentists have also been vaccinated and want to see other dentists join hospital and medical center doctors who publicly promote vaccination safety and efficacy.
"I think we need to unite -- dentists and physicians need to unite and make a serious pitch to the public that they have to get vaccinated," Josephs said. "The vaccine is proving to be so effective and yet people are still getting sick for one reason -- they're not getting the vaccine."