The COVID-19 epidemic has had drastic changes on every aspect of life, and dental health is no different. Major daily lifestyle changes have affected how people care for their teeth. Dentists have closed their doors to everything except emergency procedures.
Since you likely won’t be able to get into the office for a regular cleaning or checkup anytime soon, here are a few things you can do to make sure your pearly whites stay healthy until things get back to normal:
#1: Watch What You Eat
A lot of people’s diets are changing due to the upheaval of shelter-in-place orders. Whether you’re eating at home more because you’ve got no where to go or you’re ordering delivery so you don’t have to go shopping as often, watch out for sugary or acidic foods slipping into your new diet. A sustained use of sugar and/or acidic substances can have serious long-term impacts on your dental health.
Good tooth-healthy food choices include lean proteins, such as chicken or fish, and calcium-rich dairy products such as milk or yogurt. Fruits usually have lots of sugars in them, but that’s balanced out a bit by their high water and fiber content, so consider grapes or strawberries if you want a sweet treat!
#2: Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water offers numerous health benefits, not the least of which is helping you maintain good dental health. Your saliva plays an extremely important role in your body’s natural defenses against mouth infections, and your body needs water to replenish saliva. You can suck on sugar-free cough drops or lozenges to keep your saliva flowing when you are sick.
Many people will find themselves less active during this pandemic and for that reason might be intaking less water than usual. In addition, many medications taken for cold and flu symptoms leave you with a dry mouth as a side effect. Making sure you have a steady intake of fluids is one of the most important things you can do to keep your body healthy — and that includes your teeth!
#3: Know When You Need Emergency Attention
The American Dental Association has urged dentists to close their doors for everything but urgent and emergency procedures (https://www.ada.org/en/press-room/news-releases/2020-archives/april/summary-of-ada-guidance-during-the-covid-19-crisis).
It might be easy for a dentist to understand what qualifies as an emergency, but it’s harder for the rest of us to know when it’s important enough to go out into the world and brave the risks.
Basic procedures, such a checkups, teeth cleaning, and cosmetic procedures, such as whitening, should be put on hold for the time being. You don’t need to come in for regular visits for braces, either, unless the current adjustment is causing you pain. Cavities that aren’t causing pain can be left alone for now.
If any of the following conditions is true for you, it might be time to give your dentist a call:
- your mouth is bleeding and won’t stop
- you have painful swelling in or around your mouth
- you have significant pain in your teeth or jawbone
- you have broken or lost a tooth
- or your gums are swelling or in pain
In fact, it’s very important to call if you do have pain and it’s getting worse or not getting any better. Don’t tough it out too long. Infection can quickly escalate into a serious medical emergency. In addition to the above reasons to break your isolation, your dentist may ask you to come into the office for follow-through with any post-surgery treatment, such as removing stitches. If in doubt, please call us and we will help you decide whether you should come in.
When you do decide to go out to your dentist’s office for emergency procedures, please follow all suggested protection procedures to keep you, your dental practitioners and other patients safe.
We’ll be happy to clean and whiten your teeth as soon as things go back to normal! In the meantime, do what you can to keep them healthy and clean, and please don’t hesitate to give us a call at the number below if you have any questions or believe you may have a dental emergency!
Mirror Lake Dentistry
Dr. Eric Francom