Dr. Alex Yen is a dentist practicing in Palo Alto, CA. Dr. Yen specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating diseases and conditions associated with the mouth and overall dental health. Dentists are trained to carry out such treatment as professional cleaning, restorative, prosthodontic, and endodontic procedures,... more
In this article, we discuss the importance of regular dental checkups during the pandemic to tackle minor problems before they exacerbate more serious dental conditions. Believe it or not, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we dentists have been busier because of the increased dental problems in our communities. In fact, COVID-19 gives you even more reasons to take care of your dental health. Medical experts say that existing dental problems among patients can get aggravated when they encounter the coronavirus.
One thing that has become clearer than ever before in this pandemic is the importance of making your oral health a top priority. Your oral health is an essential component of overall health and well-being, as validated by the Surgeon General’s First Report on Oral Health (2000). Your mouth is an integral part of your food intake, speech, smile, self-confidence, and life quality. The most common dental conditions are dental caries, a chronic childhood condition that can be reversed with proper oral habits.
The Connection Between Oral Health And COVID-19
A recent study by the British Dental Journal establishes the link between your oral microbial system and COVID-19. All four critical risk factors for COVID-19, i.e., diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity, are linked to poor oral health and periodontitis. The research states that poor oral hygiene could increase the risk of inter-bacterial exchanges between the lung and mouth and can lead to a surge in respiratory infections and post-viral, bacterial complications.
As per the CDC, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are the most prevalent comorbidities among those who’ve been hospitalized with COVID-19. Even though the causal effects are not fully understood, the correlation between oral health and other systemic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, is well established. Not surprisingly, therefore, a study by the Journal of the California Dental Association (JCDA) finds that patients with gum disease who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 are at a higher risk for respiratory failure.
There is also enough evidence to suggest that COVID-19 affects your oral health, even if you don’t contract the viral infection. As top dentists in Palo Alto, we witness the impact of the pandemic on oral health such as:
- Increased accumulations of deposits on teeth.
- Demineralized teeth surfaces due to increased snacking of sugary foods and alcoholic beverages.
- Teeth sensitivity.
- Lesions and fractures because of pandemic stress and increased teeth grinding and clenching.
- Xerostomia because of constant mask-wearing leads to decreased hydration and increased mouth-breathing.
We should not underestimate the importance of the mouth-body link and oral health during COVID-19. Both medical care providers and patients shoulder the responsibility of preventive oral care, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How Dentists Can Ensure Oral Health During The Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to affect everyone, more so the vulnerable populations in our nation. It is here that dentists can step into action to ensure patient safety with specific actionable steps. The first step is to improve communication and emphasize the importance of oral health in connection with overall health. It sounds easier said than done. One is the challenge of conveying to people the importance of prioritizing their oral health amid job and financial uncertainties. The second is reaching out to the vulnerable populations, in particular, and getting the right message to them. However, when dentists like us persist amid the pandemic challenges, the treatment acceptance is usually high.
It is easier to communicate to the more privileged sections of our society. They are more cued into the latest COVID-19 news updates and understand the oral health connection between coronavirus and comorbidities such as diabetes, or heart disease. With low-income and vulnerable populations, both clarity and communication are vital. Teledentistry bridges the communication gaps and enables the delivery of oral health services without location and time constraints. Teledentistry can be effectively used for education, consultation, and triage purposes. We can also use social media for transmitting oral health education.
Patients who recover from severe infections including COVID-19 can suffer from long-term effects, including worsened dental problems. It is why we have to stress the need for preventive oral health, regular dental checkups, and treatments exclusive of the pandemic. Preventive oral dental care includes adopting a healthy lifestyle like a teeth-friendly diet, drinking fluoridated water, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol use.
For emergency dental problems, we encourage our patients to act immediately and give them the confidence to visit the clinic by educating them about the various safety measures, including non-aerosolizing procedures. Many non-surgical dental treatment procedures such as sealants and glass ionomers do not generate aerosols and reduce the risk of viral transmission. Regular monitoring and surveillance to check the COVID-19 transmission within the dental office are a must. Like most reputable dental practices we are committed to enhanced safety protocols and like always, safety comes first at Cambridge Dental Studio in Palo Alto, CA. Learn more about our safety protocols here.
As dentists, we need to continue to focus on the overall value of maintaining dental health.
Oral Health Tips For Patients During The Pandemic
Your oral health is a public health priority during the pandemic, and we bring you a few tips on how you can take care of it despite the challenges.
- Get educated about COVID-19 and its implications on oral health. Consult your dentist on all dental-related queries.
- The more you wear a mask, the more your body needs to be hydrated. Drink more water than you think your body needs. Be mindful of your water intake and don’t wait to be thirsty to drink water.
- Immunity is crucial during the pandemic. Increase your antioxidant intake via various leafy greens and brightly colored fruits and vegetables. They also help strengthen your oral tissues. Switch to healthy snack options with low or no sugar and salt content, and limit high acidic content foods.
- Be punctual about your daily brushing routine - twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste and floss once a day. Electric toothbrushes fare much better in teeth cleaning. The tongue hosts viral germs, and so cleaning them is also vital to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Don’t share your toothbrush and floss with others. Store them separately from the other household members in a dry place, with your toothbrush head facing upwards.
- The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends changing your toothbrush or brush head every three months or when the bristles get worn out. If you’ve contracted the coronavirus, they recommend changing your toothbrush immediately.
- Also, don’t skimp on preventive dental care services. Be proactive and speak to your dental care provider about the safety measures in their clinic.
COVID-19 impacts your oral health. So, take your dentist into confidence, and schedule a dental consultation for oral health care during the pandemic. Apart from regular dental checkups and adopting a healthy lifestyle, it is essential to be regular with tooth brushing, tongue cleaning, and flossing to reduce the presence and possible spread of the virus.