Garfinkle Family Dental in Agoura Hills is one of many dental offices seeing a sudden surge in patients trying to book summer appointments.

"It’s like the floodgates have opened," said Dr. Mindy Garfinkle. 

What You Need To Know

  • Dentists are seeing a surge in patients who delayed their care during the pandemic

  • In addition, many report seeing more patients with cavities and infections in people who previously never had any problems

  • Some dentists are also seeing more signs of people clenching and grinding their teeth, which they say could be due to pandemic-related stress

  • Many dentists are already booked months out, so they recommend making an appointment as soon as possible

Many of her patients who were concerned about catching COVID delayed their care and are now finding it difficult to schedule a visit.

"We have this kind of mad rush of everyone trying to get in to be seen, which I totally understand and we’re just trying to accommodate everyone as best as possible," Dr. Garfinkle said.

She says if a patient has an emergency or severe pain she tries to get them in that day or the next, but new patients may wait at least a month for a routine cleaning. For existing patients, it can be up to six months.

"Normally, I’m telling them January is the actual next available appointment we have for cleanings and we have three hygienists working," Dr. Garfinkle said.

Suellen Pollock is the office manager, but lately she has been acting as the gatekeeper of the appointments, so to speak. In fact, the list of people waiting for cancellations is four pages long.

"I actually come in on my only day off during the week now just to field the phone calls and do paperwork because I don’t have time anymore to do it during the regular working hours," Pollock said.

Due to the pandemic, roughly half of Dr. Garfinkle's patients neglected their dental care and she is now working extra hours and seeing some serious consequences. In some patients, dental issues that were once small cavities have grown and infections have spread. 

"Now, we might be talking about something like a crown, perhaps a root canal, it’s something more involved, and these are for patients who never had any sort of major dental work like this before, so for them, it can be shocking," Dr. Garfinkle said.

She is also seeing more people with signs of clenching and grinding on their teeth, which she believes is stress-related.

"People are breaking teeth. People have cracks in their teeth where it is not necessarily a break that they are aware of. They call me and they are like, 'Oh, my tooth is killing me,'" Dr. Garfinkle said.

Dental experts said when it comes to preventative care; it is wise to put your money where your mouth is.