Personal health and safety is a huge concern among respondents, with only 42% of respondents having confidence in their dentist to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their practice. 

A study commissioned by the North American Dental Group (NADG), a U.S.-based dental service organization, finds that the majority of Americans are concerned about seeking dental treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Seventy-one percent of respondents reported that they are uncomfortable visiting their dentists during COVID-19 for non-time sensitive dental procedures. A majority, 54%, however, would be comfortable doing so in the case of a dental emergency. 

A majority of respondents, 77%, reported a high concern for personal health and safety during the pandemic. This concern increases with age. Of the 77% reporting concern, the rate is 65% for those  18 to 34 years old, 77% for those 35 to 54, and 86% for those over age 55. Meanwhile, only 42% of respondents reported that they were confident that their dentist is prepared to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at their office. This disconnect presents a challenge for dentist offices to ensure patients feel their health and safety concerns are met, according to the NADG. 

The study also found that 43% of Americans either have delayed a dental check-up or a needed dental procedure, or have developed a new dental issue during the social distancing period. 

“The findings are worrying as a significant number of Americans are putting off dental care, whether by choice or to comply with national and state guidelines, which could lead to meaningful problems in the future. However, it is understandable that concern regarding overall health and safety is paramount during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Andrew Matta, DMD, chief medical officer at NADG. “To be clear, patients should only visit the dentist if they have a dental emergency, and they should consult with their dentist prior to visiting the office to confirm the necessity of the visit.”

The study also found that there is confusion among the general public as to whether dental offices are even opening during the pandemic—while 39% believe that offices are open only for emergencies, 27% think offices are closed, and a further 34% aren’t sure. 

And when it comes to visiting a dental practice, half of the respondents report that the most important factor of such a visit will be knowing whether there have been any known cases of COVID-19 in the office. Other factors patients are looking at are whether or not the dentist is following CDC guidelines (43%); if the practice is taking medical precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during exams (40%); and if/how they are screening patients for COVID-19 before dental treatments (40%).