This article was originally posted on Roseman Medical Group’s Blog.
After reviewing The Washington Post article “After a year of pandemic-delayed medical treatments, doctors are seeing more cases of advanced illnesses”, it’s safe to say that delayed care due to the COVID-19 pandemic is a big concern. COVID-19 created unprecedented challenges for those patients seeking care for conditions not related to COVID-19.
As COVID-19 cases subside and vaccination efforts continue, many healthcare providers are encouraging patients to prioritize their health and seek timely treatment – including Roseman Medical Group and Roseman Dental & Orthodontics providers.
Barriers Leading to Delayed Care
An article published in JAMA Health Forum outlined the results of several public opinion polls conducted during the pandemic to gain insight on whether individuals were able to access medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic. One study reported that one in five adults in the United States – roughly 20 percent – reported experiencing delayed care during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 31-42 percent reported postponing health care for non-COVID-19 issues, such as dental care, regular check-ups, treatment for ongoing conditions, diagnostic or medical screening tests, vision care, and surgical procedures.
Barriers to care included:
- Full out-of-pocket costs
- Fear of COVID-19 exposure
- Finding an available physician
- Securing appointments for care
- Accessing location where care would be provided
- Positive COVID-19 tests for those slated for surgery
Consequences of Delayed Care
For those who reported postponing care due to the pandemic, 57 percent said they experienced negative health consequences as a result. The Washington Post pandemic-delayed care article cited several occurrences of patients experiencing adverse effects from postponing care, as well as new medical concerns.
A survey conducted by the American Dental Association found that over 70 percent of dentists reported an increase in patients grinding or clenching their teeth and 60 percent reported an increase in chipped or cracked teeth which are common stress-related conditions. Additionally, physical therapy needs are on the rise with pain and injuries related to remote work and optometrists and ophthalmologists are seeing an increase in eyestrain due to increased screen time.
The consequences of delayed care vary, depending on factors such as underlying health and the type of care avoided. Recent evidence shows that states with an increased number of COVID-19 deaths also experienced substantial increases in mortality due to other causes, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Delayed care can lead to numerable consequences:
- Prolonged avoidance of primary and specialist care impacts chronic condition control, increases the probability of acute complications, and delays diagnosis of new conditions
- Delayed preventative screenings could lead to undetected diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, depression, cancer, and more
- Forgoing pediatric visits could cause negative impacts on physical, mental, and social development of children
- Skipping preventative dental care such as semi-annual exams and cleanings could lead to costly damage to oral health such as tooth decay and gum disease
- Prolonged hospital stays and higher costs
- Increased illness severity, morbidity, and mortality
Provider Perspective on Pandemic-Delayed Care
Roseman Medical Group Provider Perspective
“Upon review of the Washington Post article, I definitely agree with the importance of timely preventative, urgent and chronic medical care for patients. Unfortunately, I have seen many patients delay care during the COVID-19 pandemic and end up hospitalized for issues that could have easily been prevented on the outpatient basis. With this in mind, I encourage our RMG patients to schedule their annual physical, dental visits, follow up for chronic illnesses, and COVID-19 vaccination for those that qualify at this time.”
Roseman Dental & Orthodontics Provider Perspectives
“As a dentist, I have certainly seen an increase in major dental issues since the COVID-19 pandemic began. With the shutdown, fears about going to the dentist, and people losing their jobs, many people had no choice but to ignore their dental health, unless they were experiencing significant pain. Unfortunately, by the time a tooth is hurting, it usually requires major dental work to treat. Small cavities that can be easily treated are usually present with no symptoms. This is one of the reasons it is important to find a dentist that you trust and visit on a regular basis. Dental offices have taken extra precautions in order to provide care safely, and patients can feel confident in seeking dental care.”
“A couple of things I have noticed in regard to orthodontic treatment and the quarantine period/COVID:
- It appears that due to the mask mandate, many people (particularly adults) have opted to undergo orthodontic treatment because nobody can see that they are wearing appliances
- People seemed to be brushing less, again likely because of the mask mandate, and perhaps because for the longest time, people didn’t leave the house. This has subsided (thankfully), but for patients in treatment, that can mean white spot lesions on their teeth where early demineralization has occurred.
- Some patients had appliance/wires, that continued to work even though we were not able to see them as often/readily. Those patients may have had teeth move more than we would have liked, or in directions we didn’t necessarily want. Thankfully, again, this type of movement was minimized because most treatment modalities have some built in stop-gaps.
- Invisalign trays will only act as a retainer after the programmed tooth movement in any given tray.
- Elastomerics deteriorate over time reducing the amount of force placed on the teeth.
- Because orthodontists were not able to regularly see their patients and continue treatment improvement, most patients saw their overall time in braces increase. There have been studies that have concluded that the degree of COVID-19 and the mortality can be directly correlated to oral health. So, keep brushing and see your dentist!