It was a tough year for dentists in Florida.
On one hand, it was the state’s worst year for tooth decay, and on the other, the state was grappling with its worst outbreak of the coronavirus in more than a decade.
Now, with the pandemic under control, dentists are starting to turn their attention to more serious matters.
Dentists who have lost teeth to COVID-19 are now more likely to see an emergency dentist.
This means they may not be able to see patients, and may not get the same amount of care.
But there are some dentists who still can’t.
“They’re looking for a quick fix,” says Dr. David Hahn, director of the Florida Dental Association.
“That’s why we’re seeing so many people seeking care in emergency departments.”
There are two primary reasons why dentists may not have access to emergency care: they can’t pay the bills or they can get hurt or killed.
For those who can’t afford a dentist, a dental emergency is a quick and easy way to get the care they need.
“If you’ve got dental problems, you can go to your local emergency room,” says Hahn.
“You don’t have to be a dental professional to call in.”
This is why dentist visits are rising in Florida, where the state is experiencing an increase in COVID cases.
Dentistry visits are up nearly 9% in the past two months, according to the Florida Department of Health.
That’s more than double the national average of 1.2%.
Florida is a state where a lot of people who live and work in areas affected by the pandemics have been asked to leave the state.
“We’re seeing an increase,” says Donna Larkin, a dentist at the Hines dental clinic in Orlando.
“And so many are coming in because they can no longer afford to pay the dentist bills, they can also no longer pay for treatment at home, they have to take the train.”
There is also a lot at stake.
Dentist visits have increased by almost 20% in Florida in the last year.
There are now 3,800 dentists across the state, but just a few dozen are opening their doors for appointments.
And the state has not had a single case of COVID since January.
“I’ve had to stop my practice,” says Larkin.
“People are going elsewhere.”
One dentist, who asked that his name not be used, said he has been working at the clinic for three years and is paying $80,000 a year to open his doors.
He says he will not be opening his office for a few months, as he struggles to get his patients in.
But his dentist has told him that he will be open for the rest of the summer.
Dentism has become more and more popular as an option for people who are unable to afford a dental visit.
The industry says it has a duty to help patients, even if it is difficult to afford.
“As dentists, we’re the primary caregivers for our patients,” says Kari Schoeneck, the executive director of Dental Oncology Associates, a nonprofit dental group.
“So if we have to do a full-scale emergency, we have a duty as a community to help.”
Some dentists have had to limit their hours to avoid the coronas.
Dr. John Stiles, a resident of Fort Myers, is one of them.
“It’s been stressful,” says Stiles.
“But I’m able to take care of myself.”
This summer, the hospital that treats Stiles had to cancel his services.
“This is what it’s like to be in a position where you have to go out and do the thing that is really your sole purpose, that is your only purpose,” he says.
Stiles is the chairman of the American Dental Assn., and the association is the largest dental association in the country.
“There’s no shortage of people that are able to do that job, but the dentists just aren’t,” says Schoenck.
“The dentists need to be able and willing to be part of the solution, and that’s why I think that we need more dental oncologists.”