The year 2020 has been one for the record books. What started out as a seemingly normal, unassuming year quickly took a sharp 180o with the arrival of the Coronavirus. The disease which originated in China quickly spread throughout the world and as of today has been found in 213 countries and territories with over 5 million reported cases. Its impact has been far reaching for not only the health sector, but for the global economy as well. The dental community is definitely one of the many casualties of COVID-19 and for that reason we need to now explore the dynamic of the dentist, COVID-19, and you as we navigate the global pandemic.
Dental hygienists, dental assistants and dentists were consistently ranked as some of the occupations most at risk of contracting COVID-19, coming it at numbers 1, 3 and 4 out of a list of 100 occupations -with risk scores of 99.7, 92.5 and 92.1% respectively. It makes perfect sense, due to the literal in-your-face nature of the profession. Bearing this in mind, along with the social distancing protocols implemented by many governments worldwide, several dental associations put out guidelines regarding how offices should proceed during the global pandemic. Their recommendations lead to several offices being closed, with those that remained open being limited to emergency dental procedures and urgent dental care (those which are potentially life threatening or cause severe pain).
This meant that many patients, unless they were unfortunate enough to be having serious dental woes at the same time as a pandemic, were denied the opportunity to visit their favourite place in the world-the dental office, full of its wonderful sights and sounds. Many had recall appointments cancelled (semi-annual dental visits) and others had continuing treatment postponed until it would be deemed safe to do so.
What can I Do?
Even though some practices are beginning to re-open and some restrictions are beginning to be lifted (depending on where you are domiciled), we are still a long way off from “business as usual”. Life PC (Pre-corona) may take a while to return and since we may not be seeing you at the dental office for a little while, we encourage you to do your best with oral hygiene at home while you try to limit your exposure and remain safe.
Here are six tips to keep your pearly whites in tip-top shape:
- Keep Brushing and flossing: Brushing twice a day with Fluoride toothpaste for at least 2 minutes. Try to floss twice a day (or if you are an over achiever, after every meal). This is critical for limiting the effects of bacteria and plaque which can cause gingivitis and pain/discomfort.
- Rinse with an alcohol-free fluoride mouth rinse twice daily
- Clean your toothbrush by soaking its bristles in a bit of mouthwash mixed with a bit of hydrogen peroxide followed by thoroughly rinsing it under the pipe in order to help to keep it clean.
- Good oral hygiene should be accompanied by sound dietary habits. It is almost too easy to hit the snack stash extra hard (Can I get a witness?) but items containing high levels of sugar can lead to tooth decay when consumed frequently especially in the absence of proper oral hygiene.
- Chewing on sugar-free gum can help to stimulate salivary flow which can help to naturally cleanse the surfaces of your teeth. Studies have also shown that xylitol in these sugar-free gums do help to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
- Be careful with abrasive or very hard foods, especially in areas with very large fillings or bonded restorations (example crowns and bridges, temporary crowns) so as to prevent the likelihood of them debonding or becoming loose.
What to do in an Emergency
I must stress that if you have a dental emergencies that you contact your Dentist so that they can assist you. Most offices are still open with reduced hours of operation and may still be able to accommodate you. Some some offices are also have the option of teledentistry (dental consults over the phone).
Until we meet again, beneath that glaring overhead light, keep up with your oral hygiene and above all, keep safe.
Dr Budall is a General Dentist currently practicing at Andrews Memorial Hospital Dental Care in St. Andrew, Jamaica.