ROCHESTER, N.Y. — ​A survey commissioned by the American Association of Endodontists found that more than half of Americans surveyed say they have put off routine dental visits due to COVID-19.

And a local dentist at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health is concerned this trend could have serious consequences for oral health.

Dr. Wayne Lipschitz came to Rochester from South Africa for his residency in dentistry, and never left.

“Look out the window, I didn’t stay here for the weather as I tell people,” Dr. Lipschitz said. “But I’ve been here over 30 years because I enjoyed the kind of patient care I was able to provide.”

He’s practiced at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health for a long time, but 2020 brought many changes to the profession.

“Dentistry had to really reinvent our protocols and guidelines to be safe and move forward,” Dr. Lipschitz said.

But it’s because of all the research and changes that have been made that Dr. Lipschitz wants people to feel comfortable returning to the dentist’s chair.

“We are all in the office wearing our N95 masks, shields, gowns, we have the filtration systems going - all the things that are out there that have been shown to control and prevent any spread of disease,” Dr. Lipschitz said.

He says many patients have been putting off routine check-ups due to COVID-19, which could spell trouble for their mouths later.

“A small cavity that could be fixed with a bonded filling could then become a root canal, a crown, an extraction and an implant,” Dr. Lipschitz said. “So the reality is routine checks find small problems and fix them up.”

Which is exactly why Melissa Marangola is a patient who says she’s making sure she and her kids are still coming in.

“It’s important to keep up to date with medical appointments and dental appointments. If you get too far behind, you can run into trouble,” Marangola said. “And frankly, I trust the people that I see. I trust this dental health practice that they’re taking all the necessary precautions.”

Dr. Lipschitz says practices just like his at the Eastman Institute are doing everything they can to be safe, so his encouragement? Have your teeth looked at.

“It’s perfectly understandable to be afraid, but when you look at the scientific evidence and make informed decisions based on the science, we see that we can practice dentistry very safely as long as we follow the right procedures,” Dr. Lipschitz said.