Taking care of your oral health is always important, but especially so during COVID19. Many are delaying going to the dentist or waiting for an appointment. It is understandable to be cautious and is a good idea to be mindful of staying safe for yourself and family – but also keep in mind that the majority of dental offices have reopened with new guidelines in place to make sure you stay safe at your visit. The ADA has also stated that it is safe to return to the dentist. Under the new guidelines, each office will have pre-screening questions about symptoms or exposure to Covid, social distancing within the office such as waiting outside to be called in, and new infection control policies in the office such as new face shields or upgraded masks for the staff.
If you still feel best waiting to be seen, make sure to implement a mindful oral health hygiene routine. It is recommended to:
- Brush with a soft brush and gentle, thorough technique. Brushing hard can lead to gum recession and sensitivity. Taking your time, not applying extra pressure, is a better way to remove all the debris on your teeth.
- Consider an electric toothbrush. While manual brushes can work well, electric brushes that rotate or spin in addition to moving along the tooth surfaces can help with more efficient plaque removal. Brands vary with different features and choice can depend a lot on preference – although rechargeable brushes with rotating brush heads are typically more recommended. I personally use Burst and highly recommend it.
- Try to add in flossing every day (if you don’t already). This is a harder habit to get into for a lot of us – but makes a big difference for reducing plaque between teeth that are common spaces for cavities to start. If you see some bleeding when flossing after a long time not flossing, that’s generally normal – it should reduce with more frequent flossing as the gums become healthier. As with brushing, also make sure to be gentle. Be sure to wrap vs. snap the floss between your teeth.
- Mouthrinses can be a great addition to your routine – if you have more bleeding or history of gum health concerns, consider an antimicrobial rinse for gum health, or if you tend to have cavities more often try a fluoride rinse to help reduce your risk. Alcohol rinses may help with reducing more bleeding, but if you experience any dry mouth, or even if you really dislike the strong alcohol taste, feel free to switch to an alcohol-free version. Make sure not to replace brushing and flossing with rinses – they add to your routine but cannot substitute physical plaque removal.
- Working from home can come with increased temptations to snack more often – but keep in mind snacking may lead to cavities, not too much snacking, especially sugary or acidic food/drink. Good homecare before sleeping is always particularly important to prevent cavities.
- Added stress from uncertainty and changing times can lead to more clenching and grinding. If you have signs of a habit, pay attention to it and consider a nightguard if needed. These prevent wear and damage to your teeth and can help reduce related jaw discomfort. In-office night guards are a great option for a custom fit, but if you are staying away from going into an office you can consider over-the-counter or at-home impression-based models. Options include companies that offer taking an impression at home, sending into a dental lab and then receiving your personalized guard. Keep in mind it may be needed to see a dentist for an evaluation once you are able to go in person.
Keep in mind that good homecare at home is a key part of preventing many oral health-related conditions – and makes a big difference! For both gum health and reducing cavities, there is no better impact than your homecare and healthy routines to help improve your oral health. It is still recommended to check in with your dentist for things like x-rays and in-person evaluations and personalized advice, so be sure to continue seeing your dentist once you feel comfortable and safe doing so.