APEX, N.C. — Pediatric dentists are seeing in an increase in missed appointments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dentist offices were ordered to shut down for a duration of time at the start of the pandemic last March.

Little Tooth Co. in Apex is encouraging parents not to skip routine visits, as young kids are at a crucial stage for development.

"We definitely see a rise in tooth decay, as well as a hindrance in coming in for regular dentist visits and preventative care," says Dr. Jean You, a pediatric dentist.

You says they're also seeing an increase in cavities. If left untreated, it can result in lasting health impacts.

Jack Oakely, 5, and his sister Avie-Leigh had their first visit to Little Tooth Co. on Thursday.

"My teeth are clean because I brush my teeth two times a day," Jack says.

The brother and sister duo left the dentist with zero cavities. Their mom shared advice for parents who might be hesitant to bring their kids in.

"Try not to be afraid, a lot of offices are doing what they're supposed to be doing, disinfecting and trying to make it a safe environment for the children," Lacy Oakley says.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children to be seen for their first dental visit by the time the first tooth erupts or by 1-year-old.

"We are seeing a delay in bringing children in for their first dental visit, that has led to more dental emergencies in the office," You says.

Little Tooth Co. is only seeing one family at a time to follow all COVID-19 safety protocols. Due to this, they are only able to see 50% to 75% of patients that they saw pre-pandemic.

They are offering Telehealth services for families to give advice on how to stay cavity free and prevent tooth decay at home.