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Local dentists urge parents to keep up on kids’ dental care as pandemic takes toll on oral health

Coastal Pediatric Dentistry aims to create an atmosphere where kids feel comfortable seeing a dentist
Angel Russell

February is National Children's Dental Health Month, and local pediatric dentists say this is a good time to focus on setting up appointments you may have been brushing off, since the pandemic has taken a toll on oral health.

At the start of the pandemic, dentists' offices throughout the nation closed for several months for regular preventative dental care, with many only opening for emergency or urgent procedures.

Jimmy Forester, a pediatric dentist at Coastal Pediatric Dentistry in San Luis Obispo, said this was bad news for children's oral health.

"Kids suffered," Forester said. "There is no doubt in my mind that there was more decay and more problems once we started seeing people again.”

Forester said the temporary closure and the ongoing pandemic is still causing a ripple effect in tooth decay issues.

“During a pandemic, where people are at home, stuff goes out the window," Forester said. "Their basic hygiene practices get all out of whack. Kids would wake up and they didn’t have anywhere to go, and then they’d forget to brush their teeth because they weren’t leaving to go to school.”

With kids back in school, and many parents returning to work in their offices, Forester said his office is seeing more appointments.

One of the biggest issues he deals with now is cavities.

“Cavities are huge. We definitely haven’t gotten control of that yet. We are constantly taking care of that," Forester said. "You will go to most dentists these days and find there is like couple months wait to go and fix up cavities because that’s how many cavities there are.”

Although Forester still operates his office by keeping patients separate for COVID-19 precautions, he says some practices brought on from the pandemic will stay even once all restrictions are lifted.

“I have all these great air filtration systems now circulating the ventilation throughout the building," Forester said. "The great thing about that, when kids have the flu, we are turning over the air and we are going to have more healthy indoor air quality.”

Forester recommends if you’ve been putting off your kids' or your dental appointments, now is the time to address any problems you or your children may have so that issues like cavities don’t become a bigger issue.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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