The COVID-19 pandemic has people more conscious of their health than ever before. So much so that even the slightest bit of cough has them paranoid, thinking they might have caught the virus.
As people focus more on their general health, they tend to overlook oral health. There is no denying that your oral health is linked to your overall health. While ensuring good oral health doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t catch the virus, it does reduce the risk of other health problems such as heart disease1.
Most dental clinics were closed during the pandemic, only entertaining emergency cases. The key to taking care of your mouth during the pandemic is to ensure you take preventative measures. While you can’t go to your dentist for a regular checkup, you can take steps at home to ensure you maintain good oral health. We highlight exactly how you can do that.
Make the switch to an electric toothbrush
The best way to fight plaque is to prevent it. Manual toothbrushes do a decent job at stopping plaque but that is only if you brush with the right force and for two minutes. Electric toothbrushes make the brushing process easier for you. A lot of the options come equipped with a timer and oscillate at a rapid speed. The vibration and force at which the brush oscillates dislodges food debris and particles in your mouth, leaving you with a cleaner mouth.
Studies have shown that electric toothbrushes do a better job at preventing plaque when compared to their manual counterparts2. Keep in mind that the brush won’t remove plaque altogether, for that you would need to see your dentist. The brush just helps prevent further formation of plaque around your teeth and in the gums. Protecting you from various oral problems from cavities to gum disease.
Be mindful of what you eat
Diet has been somewhat of a concern for most people during the pandemic. The past year has been stressful which has resulted in excessive snacking for many, as a way to deal with the stress.
Junk food and sugary drinks develop certain acids in your mouth, which target the surface of your teeth. The more exposure your teeth have to the acid, the weaker they become. You want to limit your intake of any food that is high in starch, sugar, or non-fiber carbohydrates. They not only leave your teeth vulnerable to bacteria but also promote plaque.
Besides, junk food, you also want to limit smoking and drinking alcohol. Smoking has detrimental effects on your gums, inhibiting its blood supply which puts you at risk of gum disease. While alcohol dehydrates your mouth leaving it dry. The dryness gives way for bacteria to easily multiply and colonize in your mouth leading to plaque and cavities.
You want a diet that focuses on fruits, lots of green vegetables, and water. There is no better time than now to drink as much water as you can. Not only does water promote your overall health but also oral health. It increases the production of saliva, which fights bacteria, and also hydrates your mouth so bacteria have trouble flourishing in it.
Follow a strict oral care routine
Brushing your teeth and flossing should be part of your daily routine. There is no way around it. If you want good oral health, you need to brush twice a day and floss at least once.
- Brushing: You need to brush for 2 minutes, twice a day. Brushing for less than two minutes usually results in you not thoroughly covering the surfaces of your teeth, leaving them vulnerable to plaque. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste with fluoride. When brushing, use a circular motion and make sure you brush your tongue along with your teeth.
- Flossing: Toothbrushes are incapable of getting in between your teeth, which means they can’t remove any particles lodged there. Dental floss cleans between the teeth, preventing plaque from forming. If you are uncomfortable using floss, you can use an oral irrigation device such as a Waterpik.
Along with brushing and flossing, you should also consider rinsing your mouth with a mouthwash. It contains antiseptic that kill harmful bacteria in your mouth. When paired with brushing and flossing, mouthwash serves as another line of defense against the millions of harmful bacteria, limiting their ability to multiply.
Seek dental assistance in cases of emergency
Both ADA and CDC recommended that dental clinics close down for the public and only serve patients that have emergencies. States such as NY even prohibited clinics from performing any nonemergency services such as exams, fillings, cleaning, and aesthetic work.
This prompted a lot of dentists to turn to telemedicine. Which allowed them to continue to counsel patients through video conferencing or phone. Many dentists prefer video conferencing since it is easier to assess the degree of emergency when they can examine the mouth. For most pain, dentists will likely recommend over-the-counter pain relievers. However, in serious cases when the pain is unbearable, extraction is needed, or infected gums a dentist grants an appointment to further examine to determine the best course of action.
The restriction on dental clinics has been lifted in many states with the vaccine being rolled out. You still want to be careful and limit going to the dentist and out in general. But you can go for regular checkups and other procedures. Just make sure you take safety measures when you do visit.
How you can take care of oral problems on your own
For those that have on-going oral problems, it may be difficult to seek treatment unless it is an emergency.
Protecting yourself from tooth decay
There is no better way than brushing twice a day and flossing when it comes to preventing plaque and cavities that can lead to tooth decay. The toothpaste you use plays a vital role. Use toothpaste with fluoride, the mineral has enamel building characteristics, which ensure healthy teeth3.
Individuals that experience dry mouth are at more risk of developing cavities and tooth decay. Fluoride toothpaste may not be enough. For at-home treatment, a mouth rinse or fluoride gel is the best option. But consult your dentist virtually before you opt for such a solution.
Preventing gum disease
Since it’s difficult to visit your dentist for your annual checkup, your gums become vulnerable to plaque. Once plaque forms inside your gums, it is difficult to remove it by just brushing and flossing. You need to get your teeth and gums professionally cleaned.
A good oral care routine does help prevent plaque and keeps it at bay. So, if you can’t see your dentist, you need to make sure you brush twice a day and floss at least once4. This will protect your teeth and limit the damaging effects of plaque, for those that already have it. You also need to make sure you have a well-balanced diet and quit smoking.
Treating dry mouth
A dry mouth is a result of your mouth not producing enough saliva. It may not seem like a problem at first but it increases the chances of cavities, infection, and tooth decay.
Drinking alcohol, smoking, and medication for depression and high blood pressure often lead to dry mouth. While you should consult your dentist to see if you need any specific treatment, most will tell you to drink more water and sugarless drinks. Water ensures your mouth stays hydrated and promotes saliva production.
One year into the COVID-19 pandemic and we continue to adjust to the “new” norm. However, that doesn’t mean you put your oral health at risk. Be sure to consult your dentist as often as you like, amid virtually. All dentists continue to be available to patients and can help you prevent oral problems and maintain good oral health.