As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, a local dentist is seeing a surge in appointments and a shortage in staffing is only adding to the problem.

NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, a local dentist is seeing a surge in appointments and a shortage in staffing is only adding to the problem.

“I was hesitant to go anywhere where they were going to be in my mouth,” said Paige Passantino of Northampton.

After the start of the pandemic, Passantino waited months to see her dentist. Now, after being vaccinated against COVID-19, she said she feels safer booking appointments.

“I personally have gotten vaccinated and it definitely makes me feel so much better and knowing that people working in healthcare we’re getting it first made me feel more comfortable coming into the doctor's office,” Passantino added.

Passantino is a patient at EMA Dental, which has seen an influx in appointments recently.

“I would say the most significant increase in patient demand that I have seen during my career,” said Dr. Vincent Mariano with EMA Dental.

Mariano told Western Mass News not only are returning patients making their way back into his office, but he’s seeing twice the amount of new patients as well.

The main reason for that?

“First thing they say to me is ‘Hey doc, I’ve been vaccinated and I feel much more comfortable coming in and moving forward,’” Mariano added.

Mariano said that people avoiding the dentist chair during the pandemic has led to more serious dental issues.

“Teeth that were fractured or were beginning to bother patients now need root canals or need to be extracted, so a more significant level of care needs to be done because of that delay in care,” Mariano explained.

He added that the hardest part of his job right now is fitting everyone in his schedule. So many people are looking for appointments, EMA Dental is booking out months from now.

“We are actually backlogged by three to four months because we just cannot get staffing. Dental assistants, dental hygienists, front desk and administrative staff are in such high demand,” Mariano said.

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