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Impact of COVID-19 on Oral Health

DISCLOSURE: Noelle Copeland RDH is an Oral Care Specialist and Dental Consultant who provides content for Brilliant Oral Care and Baby Buddy.

The impact of COVID-19 has been monumental. Life as we knew it came to a screeching halt in 2020. We quarantined, and we had never done that before. We didn’t work, our kids didn’t go to school, we couldn’t visit our elderly friends and family, and no one could find toilet paper. I will never forget sitting outside one evening, stargazing with my husband. We saw this perfectly straight and perfectly spaced line of moving lights stretching across the night sky. We thought it could be military planes, and then we wondered what in the world was going on because there were so many of them, eerily flying in the same way, perfectly spaced apart.

It was so clear that night and you could see so many stars. It was also peacefully quiet. There wasn’t the background sound of cars or the hustle and bustle, just quiet. After some research, we realized that what we saw in the sky was the Earth’s satellites orbiting over us. It was super exciting to see the Earth’s satellites like that. However, something about that made me feel very small all of a sudden. This great big universe I live in is so much more than I usually grasp daily, and now this scary and unexpected new virus was about to rip through the country. Hindsight is clearly 2020 when you think of the COVID pandemic.

Not only has COVID affected our bodies and way of thinking, but it has also affected our oral health. One of the factors I think of is how everything got shut down, including dental offices. Hence, cavities went undiagnosed, cleanings got rescheduled, infected teeth didn’t get treated, and oral hygiene took a nosedive. I will even admit that I have slacked off on my homecare routine. Between homeschooling my kids and trying to keep them fed every 15 minutes (they are constantly hungry) to juggling two parents working from home, I felt frazzled and way more tired than I usually would. Often resorting to a not-so-healthy snack or caffeine as an energy pick up and then crashing into the bed at night with a rushed effort at oral care. It happens to all of us!

Oral Health effects from COVID
  • Clinching and grinding teeth- I suffer from this specific side effect, and COVID certainly turned up the dial on my tooth-destroying habit. When worry and stress meet anxiety and restlessness, the jaw can work overtime to work out all your tensions. The impact of clenching and grinding can cause enamel and dentinal wear, fractures, and even broken teeth, not to mention a very achy and painful TMJ.
  • Increase in plaque and tartar- When you flip someone’s life upside down, you also mess up their natural circadian rhythms, including routines and self-care. In my own house, I realized suddenly and a bit late at that, that NO ONE was brushing their teeth in the morning anymore! It was about a month and a half into lockdown. We had lost our morning ritual, where we got ready for the day and left the house, which meant we brushed our teeth before we left. But during quarantine, we all rolled out of bed at different times and could chime into meetings and classes in our jammies. Needless to say, some people in this house had fuzzy socks of plaque all on their teeth more rapidly than others, ahem….“It was the kids.”
  • Change in dietary habits- There was a significant increase in alcohol sales during the pandemic of 2020. Not surprisingly, sales were overtaken by off-premise retailers, especially mail order accounts. People were zooming with their vino in a coffee mug at noon because they could. Alcohol is drying to the oral tissues, not to mention it’s full of sugar and not that healthy overall. Xerostomia (dry mouth), decreased oral ph, reduced saliva production, increased sensitivity, and an increase in tooth plaque are all side effects of too much alcohol, not to mention that alcohol is a carcinogen that contributes to oral cancers and other types of cancer as well.
  • Mask Mouth- Mask Mouth is a brand new term coined from the side effects of wearing a face mask, and YES, it’s a real thing. When you wear a mask correctly, you breathe out carbon dioxide inside the mask, and your heated breath recirculates and causes dryness. This can affect your lips, the skin underneath the mask, and your oral tissues. This is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and viruses to grow. Mask wearing contributes to dry mouth, which in turn can lead to inflamed gums, bad breath, and gum disease.
  • Recovering from COVID- The recovery process for so many is probably the most significant impact that COVID has had on oral health. While some people were infected with COVID and showed little to no symptoms, others became very sick, many were hospitalized and intubated, and so many have lost their lives. Then there’s the mysterious loss of taste and smell that COVID triggered. Anytime you are very sick, especially if you become hospitalized, one of the first places you will feel an adverse side effect is in the mouth.
  • Vomiting and reflux.
  • Starchy foods like crackers and electrolyte elixirs with glucose or sugar.
  • Dry mouth can be a side effect of medications or therapy.
  • Oral mucositis- Tissue swelling in the mouth, often due to chemotherapy and radiation, and co-existing with gut mucositis and gut dysbiosis.
  • Angular cheilitis- A condition that causes red, swollen patches in the corners of your mouth where your lips meet and make an angle. Often from fungus and saliva collecting at the corners of the mouth leading to the overgrowth of microorganisms.
  • Dehydration.
  • Oxygen masks and endotracheal intubation.
  • Mouth sores and ulcers.
Recommendations to increase oral health
  • Brush 2-3 times a day: At least 2 minutes of toothbrushing, reaching all tooth surfaces. Use a toothbrush for sensitive gums. Floss every night, and use interproximal cleaners for any spaces or areas that need a little extra attention.
  • Visit your Dentist and Dental hygienist as soon as you can. Address any recommended dental issues and get your teeth professionally cleaned.
  • Don’t brush after an episode of vomiting/reflux. Rinse your mouth well with plain water. Follow that up with a Ph stabilizing mouth rinse or gel with Xylitol.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Eat Clean, whole foods.
  • Limit processed sugars and carbs.
  • Use a saltwater rinse if gums are flaring up and tender.
  • If you have gingivitis or periodontal disease, get it treated as directed by your medical and dental professionals.
  • Avoid alcohol! Many dental products often contain alcohol. This can make dry mouth worse. Alcohol-free mouthwashes and other products are available; ask your dentist for help when navigating new products.
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier. Running a humidifier as much as possible, especially during the winter, helps keep the air moist, which helps keep the nose and mouth moist.
  • Do not smoke or chew tobacco.

If you were looking for better and healthier ways to establish an effective home care routine, you found the right place. If you want to try the best toothbrush for sensitive gums, look no further than Brilliant Oral Care. Our round head toothbrush not only removes the plaque on teeth, it simultaneously cleans and removes the plaque and bacteria found on the cheeks, gums, teeth, and tongue. It’s the softest toothbrush for sensitive gums, and if you are recovering from an illness, it’s the best option for your oral health. Don’t forget to #BRUSHBRILLIANT

© 2021 Compac Industries. All rights reserved. This article provides information about “oral health topics” as expressed through the perspective and experience of the author. The information provided does not substitute professional advice or counsel, including diagnosing or treating any condition. Always seek the advice of your dentist or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, an oral condition, an illness, or treatment of any listed or unlisted situation above. By using this site, you signify your assent to our Terms and Conditions. If you do not agree to all of these Terms and Conditions, do not use this site.

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