SALT LAKE CITY — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic fewer people have gone to the dentist, Dr. Jeri Bullock, associate dean of clinical affairs for the University of Utah School of Dentistry, said.

“We have seen a significant decrease in the number of patients we are seeing,” she said.

Many people, like Spencer Nicholas, said they are skipped dental appointments because of concerns over the virus.

“I wasn’t going to go somewhere and have somebody work in my mouth,” he said.

Read: Utah reports 812 more COVID-19 cases, 14 additional deaths Wednesday

During the pandemic, keeping everyone safe, including a high-risk individual in his house, was a top priority, Nicholas said.

“I look at all my priorities during that time and going to the dentist was not a priority,” he said.

According to the American Dental Association, most dental offices are back open but seeing fewer patients than normal.

“Dentistry as a whole has been hit hard during this pandemic and most small practice owners are still being hit very hard as a small business owner,” Dr. Bullock said.

Read: Doctors concerned over Utahns delaying medical care during pandemic

It is important to go see the dentist every six months to ensure not only teeth and gum health, but over all health, Dr. Bullock said. It is concerning so many people are skipping this essential service.

“There are a lot of connections between our oral health and our systemic health related to heart disease, diabetes, neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease,” she said.

Dental practices are following guidance from the CDC and ADA on how to safely be open during the pandemic. People should call their dentist and discuss what safety precautions are being taken to help them feel more comfortable, because it is safe to go to the dentist, Dr. Bullock said.

The hope is to get back to the dentist by the summer or at the latest this fall, Nicholas said, as more people get vaccinated.

Read: Father and son dentists 3D printing reusable face masks