COVID-19 negatively impacts the oral health of many patients — even those patients who have not contracted the disease.
A consequence of this unprecedented pandemic is that dentists are seeing a significant spike in cavities, cracked teeth, and gum disease. Dentists in some areas have reported a 120% increase in patients with these issues, compared to the same period from the previous year.
The higher rate of oral health problems can be attributed to a number of factors, some of which are:
Delayed maintenance, behavioral changes, more tooth grinding and the impact of the disease itself on the oral cavity.
It is important to stop the spread of deadly infectious diseases, and also important to recognize that deferring dental health care can result in minor problems deteriorating into more serious issues. Knowing this, it is especially critical for patients to maintain regular dental care and be extra diligent about their home oral hygiene routines, to mitigate oral health damage during these trying times.
- Many patients are at home almost all the time now, and there has been a tendency to snack more on sugary “comfort food” during these stressful times.
- Many people have been consuming more alcohol.
- Many people have become somewhat lax in normal daily routines because they are conducting business over the internet instead of in the office.
Consuming sugar and/or alcohol combined with brushing and flossing less diligently is a “pandemic recipe” for cavities and gum disease.
Alcohol in general can have a negative impact on oral health, because it is acidic and wears on the enamel of the teeth.
Alcohol consumption also contributes to dryness of the mouth which allows the bacteria to sit on the surfaces of the teeth and tongue.
Even those patients who abstain from drinking alcohol or avoid eating sugar may still be consuming these substances in the medications they take to combat the Covid-19 virus, particularly cough syrup, which many patients may take for weeks on end.
BRUXISM HAS INCREASED SIGNIFICANTLY
Bruxism is the technical name for grinding the teeth while asleep, which often results in cracked teeth and jaw pain. Mouth guards are an effective solution to prevent some of the damage caused by bruxism.
Sales of mouth guards have risen sharply during the pandemic. Mouth guard manufacturers have reported an increase of 15 to 30 percent in orders of mouth guards as the pandemic has worn on.
COVID-19 MAY RESTRICT BLOOD FLOW TO THE ORAL CAVITY
There is significant evidence to indicate that some people who contract Covid-19 suffer from discoloration of the teeth or even lose some their teeth as a result of the disease. When Covid-19 patients lose teeth but experience no associated blood loss in the mouth, it indicates the roots of the teeth have experienced restricted blood flow, which is a signature attribute of this disease.
WHAT CAN MITIGATE DAMAGE TO THE TEETH?
In order to maintain your oral health while combating a case of Covid-19, it is vitally important to stay hydrated. Make a habit of drinking WATER frequently. This helps rinse the sugar and alcohol contained in many cough syrups away, and rinses away the biofilm that damages the enamel of the teeth.
Proper hydration helps the body in general when facing a health challenge.
Practice extra diligence in adhering to a daily hygiene routine
Brush, floss and rinse with a mouthwash at least twice a day to remove harmful oral bacteria that can cause cavities and gum disease. This is more important than ever, particularly if a patient is taking cough medication.
Things to help avoid cracked teeth due to teeth grinding include
- Exercise daily to relieve stress.
- Wear a mouthguard at night.
- Brush and floss the teeth, and rinse with mouthwash after every meal.
- Sit up straight or even stand while at the computer to avoid hunching forward, which can contribute to bruxism.
Don’t despair if you suffer from tooth damage exacerbated by the pandemic. We are here to help you! Each member of the staff at Distinctive Dentistry practices the highest standard of care and sanitation measures to ensure the safety of our patients. We urge you to maintain regular dental care as an important part of protecting your overall health.
Dr. Keith Phillips stays on the cutting edge of best practice methodology. Rebuilding damaged or missing teeth is his area of expertise, and he specializes in “all-on-four” dental implant tooth replacement.
If you need to get up to date on your oral health maintenance, we’ll be happy to schedule you for an appointment. We serve the greater Tacoma area and are conveniently located just down the street from City Hall in Fife, WA.