Oral Health: Through the lens of COVID-19

Submitted by Blue Ridge Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

Blue Ridge OMFSOur mouths are a beacon for the rest of our overall health.  Normally, our oral health and maintenance should be a scheduled and routine part of our lives, like brushing and flossing twice a day or visiting the dentist every 6 months.  When life changes like it has for so many of us recently, it is important to highlight continuing to care for our oral health and teaching individuals what can be done: at home as well as with the help of your dentist or dental specialist, to keep your overall well-being as optimized as possible.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommended that all dental offices post-pone non-emergent care in mid-March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US.  Currently, we have been under a quarantine and are implementing social distancing practices that affects access to care and has also become a financial strain that impacts all the people of our country.

Caring for Your Smile

Brushing and flossing twice daily with fluoride containing pastes or rinses is recommended by the ADA.  If we are cutting costs and being conservative in our spending, alternatives to buying toothpaste is a salt paste, baking soda, or simply plain tap water on your brush.  The benefits of brushing primarily come from the mechanical cleansing of your teeth and gums.  When brushing your teeth, use a soft-bristled toothbrush, brush your teeth and your tongue twice a day for two minutes. Make sure you clean the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces of your teeth. Flossing is also important to remove food particles and plaque where toothbrush bristles cannot reach, including between the teeth and under the gum line.

Eating Healthy Foods

Our diet plays a large part in our oral health.  The ideal diet for healthy teeth and gums is a whole-foods, plant-predominant diet, minimizing refined sugars, refined flours, and highly processed foods.  Acidic foods and beverages, such as orange juice, processed meats, and carbonated drinks also contribute to the breakdown of your tooth enamel (the hard, protective layer) making you more susceptible to decay.  The food industry has changed due to the limited social and physical interactions recently, and more people may be consuming prepackaged and more process (shelf-stable foods) in place of the fresh fruits, vegetable, and whole grains.  Remember you can still consume canned, frozen, or dried fruits and vegetables, as well as prepare whole grains.

Water is vitally important.  Please remember to stay well hydrated.  Bottled water does not contain fluoride, an essential nutrient to strengthening your tooth enamel.  However, fluoride is added to most community tap water.  So long as the local water is a safe source for consumption, it is preferred to bottled water for protecting oral health.

Avoid Smoking and Alcohol Consumption

Avoiding smoking is another important part of proper oral hygiene. Smoking not only negatively impacts your overall health, but it can also severely damage your teeth, gums, and mouth.  Smoking can also lead to gum disease, one of the top causes of tooth loss in adults.  Smoking combined with alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing throat and lung cancer, and smoking is the main cause of oral cancer.

Schedule to see your Dentist or Dental Specialist

While our health care resources have been focused on tackling the spread of the coronavirus, we can mitigate, or lessen, the burden on hospitals by continuing to address hygiene at home and intervening at the level of your dental provider if you have tooth pain or trauma.  Please seek care from a dental provider in lieu of going to the hospital where possible.  Taking care of small emergencies can prevent a larger situation from arising.  Those dental providers that are able to receive patients are taking all precautionary and sanitation measures to keep you and your family safe.

Dental health providers are optimistic that this period in history will pass and improve.  Honest attention to personal care and oral health and staying diligent about the small things that we can do to take care of ourselves and our community, can play a large role in helping us remain a healthy, strong community.  Keeping those smiles will benefit us all in so many ways!

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