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What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About Dental Health

Lifestyle Changes and Hygiene Habits

Let’s face it: In many ways, the pandemic has caused us all to take a step back and reassess our basic hygiene habits. From washing hands to social distancing, we are more aware than ever about taking general precautions to stay healthy. This should also be applied to our dental care. Lack of daily routine and change of eating and sleeping habits can throw a once healthy mouth into a tailspin. Not to mention, fear of COVID exposure caused many families to veer from their regular dental visit schedules.

What is COVID Crud?

With many students learning from home during the past year, a lack of structure has thrown off most families’ regular dental routines. Teens are going to bed late, forgetting to brush, and sleeping in as their mouths fill with bacteria. Teens were thrown off when the day began in mid-afternoon, by which time, they may have forgotten that crucial dental
hygiene component of the morning.

As a result, dental health providers are now seeing patients in need of deeper cleanings because of more plaque build-up and gum inflammation. Although this happens with adults, it is more apparent in teenagers, hence the diagnosis of COVID crud.

WFH Pros and Cons

Many people have discovered working from home can mean a longer, more productive day. Working from home can also impact one’s dental hygiene. Much like the kids, adults roll out of bed, hop on that Zoom call, and forget the usual morning routine. Throughout the day, many people find themselves snacking more while working from home. Halfway through the afternoon, we might find ourselves on auto pilot and forgetting the self-care elements of the usual morning. 

Stress and Lifestyle Changes

Over the course of the pandemic, many of us have experienced an increase in stress, as well as increases in alcohol and tobacco use, and possible substance abuse. Our diets may have changed dramatically, too. In some patients, stress has caused jaw issues related to nighttime clenching and grinding which can lead to chips or fractures in the teeth. Ask your dentist about a night guard to alleviate some of the pressure. 

With vaccination rates picking up and more outings taking place, now is a good time to get back on track. Here are a few tips to help you get back in the dental care habit this summer.
• Think of brushing in the morning as not just good for a clean mouth, but a good pick-me-up in general.
• Set an alarm twice a day to stay on track with your brushing. One of those times, you should also floss.
• Choose snacks wisely and try to limit sticky, gummy, sugary snacks.
• Pace yourself! Frequent snacking without brushing in between increases your risk of cavities.
• Limit late night snacking. Not only is this good for your mouth, it’s good for the rest of your body.
• Limit sugary drinks. Instead, wash those snacks down with plenty of water. This will help keep the bacteria growth at bay and wash any particles away.
• Wear your night guard or retainer regularly (if you have one!) or talk to your dentist about wearing one.

Safety Precautions at the Dentist

The American Dental Association deems dentistry essential medical care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing, or treating oral diseases, which can affect one’s overall systemic health. A reputable dental practice will follow the guidelines and standards set by the American Dental Association and CDC to keep its patients and staff safe and healthy. With proper precautions in place, risks are minimal. 

Summer is a fantastic time to catch up on your dental routine, and until you can get to your appointment, try to reestablish your oral care routines to keep your mouth as healthy as possible.

Tina Ressler, DDS, is a general dentist with Virginia Family Dentistry Short Pump. She received both her DDS and advanced general dentistry residency from VCU. Dr. Ressler lives in the West End with her husband and two teenage children. The family enjoys staying active with the kids’ soccer and lacrosse games.
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