How has life changed for you in the past 18 months? Have there been any changes to your daily routines and habits? From lockdowns and temporary closures to working from home and stay-at-home orders, we have all felt the far reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has changed many aspects of our daily lives -- including our oral health routines.
Let’s take a look at some statistics.
It goes without saying that people’s daily routines changed during the pandemic. But let’s take a look at some specific examples of how those changes affected our oral health. Among those surveyed:
43% indicated that working from home or learning from home led to disruptions to their usual dental hygiene habits.
25% waited until later in the morning to brush their teeth, while 21% didn't brush in the morning at all.
24% flossed less frequently, and 23% didn’t floss at all.
28% didn't schedule or forgot to schedule a dental visit.
Over 70% of dentists reported a significant increase in stress-related dental issues, such as cracked teeth due to habitual teeth grinding (bruxism), despite seeing fewer patients overall.
About 30% of dentists observed more tooth decay (cavities) and periodontal (gum) disease.
What do these numbers tell us?
The above statistics tell us that people were: snacking more, delaying or dropping their oral hygiene routines, delaying or dropping dentists visits, and that they were extraordinarily stressed. A very common side effect of stress is teeth grinding and clenching, which can result in a host of dental issues over time, such as: worn down teeth, chipped and cracked teeth, TMJ disorders, root canal injury, broken dental appliances (braces, dentures), gum disease and tooth decay. Due to changes in diet, changes in routine, delayed dental care, and stress, dental health issues have increased significantly during the pandemic.
How can I get my dental health back on track?
If you can relate to any of the above, you are not alone. It may take a bit of effort, but your oral and overall health is always worth it! So, what steps can you take to get your dental health back on track?
Go back to the dentist. Many people have put off dentist visits during the pandemic, which at first was unavoidable due to sweeping mandated temporary closures. But with virtually all dental practices operating at normal hours now, it is a great time to go back. Dental issues are not always painful or obvious, and dental exams are the best way to reveal any existing oral health issues -- particularly if you have not been to the dentist in awhile.
Brush and floss daily and properly. Regular oral hygiene is the foundation for good oral health! Brush morning and night for two minutes each, and floss before bedtime.
Reconsider your diet -- particularly your snacking habits. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional snacking, but frequent snacking means there is far more time and opportunity for food debris and bacteria to cling to teeth, creating acid and forming cavities. Cut down on snacking, and avoid sipping on acidic or sugary drinks throughout the day. If you do have a snack, rinse your mouth with water after or chew sugarless gum, which helps stimulate saliva flow, which like water will help rinse away bacteria from your teeth surfaces.
Keep an eye out for any warning signs. Habitual teeth grinding and clenching often causes headaches, jaw stiffness or pain, and increased tooth sensitivity. Bleeding while brushing your teeth or inflamed, swollen gums are other warning signs of oral health issues. If you notice any warning signs, make an appointment to see your dentist so that they can identify and treat the issue quickly, before it becomes a more serious (and more difficult to treat) problem.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant, negative change in our oral health and hygiene. Dental care may have been pushed down the priority list of things to worry about and address in the past 18 months, but poor oral care can lead to serious health issues. As life slowly but surely returns to a more familiar beat, take thoughtful care of yourself, your health, and your well being. Re-establish your oral health and hygiene routines, and make that dentist appointment. Caring for your oral health is always worth it, and you will thank yourself for it for years to come!