It’s no secret that the past year has been stressful for our collective body, mind, and spirit — but did you know that it’s also likely had an effect on our teeth? A survey conducted by the American Dental Association found that dentists have noticed a dramatic increase in stress-related conditions, including cracked teeth and teeth grinding, cavities and gum disease. This information was alarming but ultimately unsurprising — not only have 1 in 3 people been skipping their 6-month dentist appointments to adhere to covid precautions or losing their health insurance, but many have seen a fluctuation in their routine diet and hygiene habits (seriously -- who in the last year hasn’t opted for that second scoop of ice cream?). The good news? 94% of surveyed folks are ready to get back in the dentist's chair and recommit to their dental health. But, with millions of people having skipped the dentist in the past year, the New York Times asked: “The pandemic was bad for our teeth. Will it change oral health forever?”
We’re digging into how skipping the dentist can change the health of your teeth, and how to prevent any problems with your oral care at home.
What happens when you don’t visit the dentist?
First off, cavities can take months and sometimes years to form. If you take good care of your teeth at home and go to the dentist regularly, every 6 months, any cavity can be prevented by removing any plaque buildup before it forms. Even if you did form a cavity during the pandemic, you should be able to catch it at the dentist with a filling. Left untreated, though, they can penetrate the inner layers of the tooth and reach the nerve and require more complicated treatment like a root canal therapy. Another thing that can happen you might not be thinking about? Inflammation of the gums or so called periodontal disease. Dental professionals are trained to catch this verrry early during routine dental visits, so it can be treated and prevented with little harm done.
Some steps you can take to heart (or, you know, mouth) at-home
Brush better. Whether you’ve been waking up extra early to prepare your kids for virtual learning, or rolling out of bed just in-time for your 10AM meeting, we can understand how your daily brushing habits stopped being as diligent during the pandemic. But, especially if you’re not getting to the dentist as often as you should, brushing diligently for two minutes, twice every day will save yourself from extra pain and extra costs in the long-run. If you’re having trouble staying consistent, add a reminder on your phone to keep the routine, or brush to one of your favorite songs so you commit to a full 120 seconds (the first song off Olivia Rodrigo’s new album is 2:23, in case you’re wondering). Take the time to rebuild this daily habit, and eventually, you won’t need to rely on any reminders.
Flossing is your friend. If you’re not flossing in your daily routine, you’re more susceptible to plaque buildup and a higher potential for gum disease or cavities. To get back in the habit, floss once a day — or more, if you so choose! — and if you need any guidance on what floss to use and the proper technique, we’re here to help (and psst — if you want a floss option that is refillable, we got you).
Swish away. Mouthwash offers benefits that brushing and flossing can’t by themselves, access to the gaps between your teeth that they can’t reach and applying fluoride to keep them strong. Swish-swash mouthwash after you brush to keep things extra clean, especially if you have a new refillable dispenser to show off.
Chew, chew, chew. If you’ve got sugar-free gum with xylitol, chew it after devouring your maskless (if you’re vaxxed in some places) barbecue plate. Gum with xylitol after each meal can help prevent cavities, and it’ll keep your breath fresh too. (Surprise: We’ve got a refillable answer for healthy and happy gum, too.)
And what about whitening?
With summer fast approaching, we’re looking forward to re-entering the world and reuniting with friends in the sunshine. And that’s why tooth whitening product sales are way up. But, if you’re looking to brighten up your smile, your best bet is to book a safe whitening, administered by a dental professional, before you make your grand re-entry. While health should always be prioritized, there is nothing wrong with wanting to give your teeth a little extra ToothLC.