Pediatric care, pandemic woes

Posted by watchmen
June 27, 2024


By Dr. Joseph D. Lim

What we have known to have happened here in the Philippines has just been confirmed to have occurred in the United States.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, the likelihood of a child in the U.S. having a dental visit in 2020 was 27 percent lower than in the previous, pre-pandemic year.

This was true for all the American children covered by the study, regardless of socioeconomic status.

It’s true here too, as colleagues relate. Because of strict lockdown rules and health protocols, and the fast spread of COVID-19 infections before vaccines became available, Filipinos were afraid to go out, fearful that the virus lurks in public places.

And that included dental clinics. In fact, many if not all dental clinics closed down.

The Philippine Dental Association issued strict protocols for dental clinics to follow, and individual dentists implemented international standards on their own — just to ensure that their patients and their dental staff were safe from the COVID virus.

When dental clinics did open, many looked different from what they were before. There were many plastic barriers to keep the chances of COVID transmissions to a minimum if not eliminated.

Dental appointments were kept to a minimum so that patients don’t crowd the clinic. In fact, many clinics allowed only limited number of patients who can enter for checkups or treatment.

What were once taken for granted were now nowhere to be seen: Magazines and newspapers are no longer available because these are read by many patients and increase the chances of COVID transmissions.

Indeed, patients were strictly asked questions to determine that they are not infected — a necessary precaution to protect other patients and the dental staff.

This year, during the annual conference of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a most interesting study was presented. It had to do with how people postponed dental treatments because of the fear of COVID infection.

It only made infections worse, said Alhanouf Alhussaini, a postgraduate resident in the Pediatrics Department of  Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.

Together with Professor Cheen Loo, Chair of Pediatric Dentistry at Tufts, Ms. Alhussaini and co-researchers analyzed pediatric emergency cases at Tufts from 2018 to 2021. They presented their findings during the conference.

“We’re seeing a lot more dental caries [tooth decay] and infection,” said Professor Loo.

Pre-pandemic, nearly half or 44 percent of the emergency pediatric cases seen at Tufts were for dental infections. After the onset of the pandemic, it increased to more than half or 56 percent.

During the pandemic, children were less likely to return for follow-up visits than patients in previous years. “Parents would say that they’re not comfortable coming because of the pandemic,” said Ms. Alhussaini.

Then things changed after health protocols were relaxed. She has observed an increase in the number of patients after strict lockdown and health protocols were lowered. That is, after August 2021 when the study was concluded. Parents were more comfortable in bringing their children to dental clinics.

It’s also true here. Patients and parents are more comfortable going to or bringing children to dental clinics, knowing that strict health protocols are being observed.

They can rest assure that dental clinics have done what needs to be done to protect both patients and dental staff.



Dr. Joseph D. Lim, Ed. D., is the former Associate Dean of the College of Dentistry, University of the East; former Dean, College of Dentistry, National University; Past President and Honorary Fellow of the Asian Oral Implant Academy; Honorary Fellow of the Japan College of Oral Implantologists; Honorary Life Member of the Thai Association of Dental Implantology; and Founding Chairman of the Philippine College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail or text 0917-8591515.



Dr. Kenneth Lester Lim, BS-MMG, DDM, MSc-OI, graduated Doctor of Dental Medicine, University of the Philippines, College of Dentistry, Manila, 2011; Bachelor of Science in Marketing Management, De la Salle University, Manila, 2002; and Master of Science (MSc.) in Oral Implantology, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany, 2019. He is an Associate Professor; Fellow, International Congress of Oral Implantologists; Member, American Academy of Implant Dentistry and Fellow, Philippine College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail

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