Your Next Appointment Here Is About to Get Much More Expensive

With appointment volume still down as much as 20 percent, extra costs are being passed along to patients.

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It's not just cleaning supplies and toilet paper that have suddenly shot up in price amid the coronavirus pandemic. Fewer Americans are getting regular dental care as COVID continues to surge throughout the U.S., according to an October report from the American Dental Association (ADA) obtained by USA Today. All in all, while 99 percent of U.S. dental offices are now open following COVID-related closures, dentists are seeing approximately 20 percent fewer patients than prior to the pandemic, meaning your next appointment at the dentist is likely to get more expensive, too. Read on to learn why, and for more goods and services with skyrocketing prices, These Items Will Be More Expensive After Coronavirus.

Approximately 15 to 20 percent of Americans who would otherwise get regular dental care are "not going to go back to the dentist until there's a vaccine or a proven treatment," explains Mark Vujicic, the ADA's chief economist.

The ADA reports that, all in all, Americans could spend up to 38 percent less on dental care in 2020 than in an average year, with many dentists forced to account for the shortfall by increasing the costs passed on to patients. According to the ADA, dentists are spending up to $20 extra per patient on COVID-related safety measures, as well as reducing their overall patient load in order to space out appointments and allow for adequate cleaning between patients.

Dentist with male assistant treating female patient
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It's not patients alone who may bear the brunt of 2020's dental slowdown, though. "I do think we will see additional layoffs and some exits in the market," says Vujicic. "It's suggesting to me that it's not a sustainable situation."

The ADA reports that finding skilled staffers for dental practices has been a challenge amid the pandemic, too. Dental offices reported in October that their staffs had shrunk to 93 percent of what they were prior to COVID, with 80 percent of dentists looking to hire dental hygienists saying there have been significant challenges doing so, and 70 percent of those hiring dental assistants saying the same.

The dire economic realities related to coronavirus shutdowns have also caused serious financial troubles for dentists themselves. According to USA Today, many dentists with independent practices, finding themselves unduly burdened both in terms of finances and time, are increasingly joining dental support organizations (DSOs), which offer administrative help, while countless others are seeking to sell their practices or join larger group practices.

However, despite many patients' trepidation about returning to the dentist, the rate of coronavirus among dental professionals has remained surprisingly low. A preprint of a report to be published in the Journal of the American Dental Association reveals that under one percent of dentists from a sample group of nearly 2,200 respondents had either a confirmed or probable case of COVID, indicating that "current infection control recommendations may be sufficient to prevent infection in dental settings."

If you do decide to head back to the dentist during the pandemic, read on to find out what steps you can take to remain safe. And if you want to know where COVID is presenting a bigger threat than ever, These 21 States Are Having Their Biggest COVID Surges Yet.

1
Book a telehealth appointment.

Man video chatting with doctor
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While routine or emergency dental procedures can't be replaced by in-person care, you don't necessarily need to go into the office just to have your dental work needs assessed. In August, the CDC put out new guidance to limit the spread of coronavirus, including recommending the use of teledentistry appointments to help determine whether in-person care is necessary. And if you're worried about your coronavirus risk, check out If You Can't Smell These 2 Things, You May Have COVID.

2
Wear a mask when you're not being worked on.

older man wearing mask in doctor's waiting room
Shutterstock/David Fuentes Prieto

Though it may not be possible to wear a mask for the entirety of your appointment, the CDC recommends keeping it on at any point when having your mouth visible isn't necessary. This means wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth in the waiting room and putting it on once again as soon as your appointment is over.

3
Stay outside until your appointment time.

young woman wearing surgical mask in car
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Social distancing can help limit the spread of COVID, including in your dentist's office. If you want to err on the side of caution, call your dentist's office to let them know you've arrived and remain outside until they're ready to take you. And for more helpful content delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

4
Go alone.

young white woman wearing mask at appointment
Shutterstock/Enrique Micaelo

Before the pandemic, it may have been OK to bring your kids, partner, or even a pal along to an appointment with you. However, to ensure that social distancing is possible in your dentist's office, the CDC notes that it's important to head to your appointment solo whenever possible. And for more signs you could have the virus, check out

5
Stay home if you're feeling sick.

black man checking his temperature and making a phone call
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If you want to do your part to limit the spread of coronavirus, stay home if you're feeling unwell. The CDC recommends that dentists take patients' temperatures prior to appointments, so if you're feeling under the weather and your temperature is elevated, you may be sent home anyway.

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