We have all heard and firmly affirm with the famous proverb “Prevention is better than cure“. This proverb defines an approach not only to health issues but also to other aspects of life. It especially holds true in these unprecedented times of the global pandemic. An essential aspect of maintaining a healthy body is maintaining good oral hygiene as your mouth is the gateway to everything that goes inside your body.
We all know that Covid-19 is here to stay. We have to learn to live with the new normal. The fear of infection has instilled a feeling of reluctance even towards essential treatments. This unintentional negligence can sometimes flare up the existing problem. Very few pains can be as bad as dental pain irrespective of the nature and reason. Uncontrolled dental pain related to swelling, inflammation, fractured teeth, and bleeding fall under dental emergencies and must be addressed immediately. E-consultation is helpful but unfortunately, only medicines can not cure dental problems. They can just buy us some time.
There could be many ill-effects of delayed dental care. An unattended tooth cavity might require a root canal treatment or even tooth removal. A removed tooth that needed an implant may cause bone loss if not addressed soon. Chronic infections may get flared into acute ones. There is also a certain amount of risk in the case of unaddressed gum issues. It can lead to inflammation and bone loss.
For those who have issues that need immediate care should book an e-consultation with their dentist first and plan a visit for physical consultation if required. For others, read on.
Pandemic or not, the golden oral habits to follow throughout your life are:
- Brush twice daily with a soft toothbrush for at least 2-3 minutes. Brushing your teeth twice a day is as vital as eating or taking a shower daily. Many people fail to understand the importance of brushing at night. The maximum bacterial action inside your mouth occurs at night when the mouth is closed, and there is undisturbed formation of plaque (a soft, sticky film on the teeth containing millions of bacteria). Brushing your teeth at night prevents plaque formation and avoids cavities and gum diseases in your mouth.
It is equally important to clean your tongue as well. Many people are unaware of the fact that the taste buds and the structure of the tongue can harbour plenty of bacteria as a biofilm. This layer cannot be completely rinsed off with water or mouthwash and has to be cleaned by brushing. Place your toothbrush at the back of the tongue and brush forward and backward lightly along your tongue. Keep spitting out saliva that appears during the cleaning and rinse out the toothbrush with warm water. Please remember not to overdo it as it could harm the surface of the tongue. It is highly advisable to clean your tongue as often as you brush your teeth.
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after every meal and especially after eating sticky foods/snacks in between meals. There is a common misconception that only sweets could cause cavities in teeth. While it is true that sweets have a higher content of carbohydrates and are more prone to sticking to teeth and causing harmful bacterial action there, any kind of sticky food like chips, bread, cookies and even nuts are equally worse. After eating food that sticks to the top of your teeth (esp. molars) or in between teeth, the stuck food particles act as a source of nutrition for the cavity-causing bacteria (cariogenic bacteria). So rinsing the mouth with water helps to dislodge the soft food particles. If need be, one can brush their teeth after 60-90 minutes of rinsing (as recommended by the American Dental Association) post meals and snacks.
- Start using dental floss if you have not used it before. While chewing food, tiny food particles tend to get stuck in between teeth and those cannot usually be removed by regular toothbrushing. This can result in inter-proximal caries/cavities that are not easily detectable. To ensure thorough removal of food particles from between the teeth, one must floss. Adults should floss their teeth once at night. Parents should start flossing their kids’ teeth as soon as there is contact between two adjacent teeth until the age of 8 years or when the child gains enough dexterity to floss on his own.
Besides the conventional roll of floss, there are lesser-known options for flossing:
★ Floss picks (disposable / non-disposable)
★ Water flosser/Water picks
★ Interdental brush (in cases where there are visible gaps between teeth)
Your oral health professional could guide you on the type of flossing technique best recommended for you based on the spaces between your teeth and your oral hygiene habits and lifestyle.
Along with the habits mentioned above, the following tips would also help keep your oral issues at bay:
- Massage your gums in a circular motion with a clean finger after brushing at night. When performed properly, gum massage increases blood flow and hence oxygen supply, to your gum tissue. Many of the bacteria that cause gum diseases thrive in an environment with little to no oxygen. The additional oxygen supplied to gum tissue during gingival massage can help kill many of these bacteria and improve overall gum health.
When performed regularly, gum massage can also thicken the gum epithelium (outer layer of gum tissue that helps protect the gums from harmful bacteria). When this tissue layer thickens and strengthens, it helps protect your gums from bacterial infections more effectively.
As a bonus, any food debris remaining in gum tissue after brushing and flossing may also dislodge during gum massage sessions.
Nutrition plays an equally important role.
It is highly suggested to minimize the sugar consumption between meals. Instead, eat more fresh and crunchy fruits and vegetables (maybe serve them with a dip for kids to relish them). Fiber-rich food like carrots, cucumber, apple, and salad leaves help clean plaque from the teeth and also freshen your breath. They stimulate saliva production and hydrate the mouth which in turn reduces the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
We also encourage people to drink more water. Reducing the sweet beverages between meals will also help your teeth stay healthy. For your reference, a can of soft drink or soda contains ten or more teaspoons of sugar. If you have a habit of sipping on sweetened tea or coffee throughout the day, you are bathing your mouth in sugar. You must consider drinking it all at once rather than stretching the damage out over a longer time. Remember that such beverages cause staining of your teeth as well, even if you take them unsweetened.
Special instructions for kids
It is always better to help kids with brushing and flossing, making sure they are brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste. You can watch them brush on their own first, encourage that independence, then go in and make sure they hit all the tough spots.
For babies, before they get their teeth, wiping their gums with a clean, wet finger or cotton swab/washcloth every morning and night is essential. Once they have teeth, we recommend you use a smear of toothpaste (rice grain size) on the brush to clean their teeth. Brushing before sleeping is very important especially for babies who are nursing at night. Those sugars do not get washed away as the saliva levels fall at night. For older kids, two and above, a small pea-sized amount of toothpaste is sufficient.
Helping your kids clean in between their teeth is valuable in preventing the cavities in between the teeth. Once kids’ teeth are touching, they should be flossing or cleaning interdentally.
Special instructions for older adults
It would be helpful to assist them with cleaning the oral cavity. Many people, young and old, take medications that cause dry mouth as a side effect. This results in a higher risk of developing cavities because of the lack of cleansing action by saliva. One should consult the dentist regarding the toothpaste, rinses, and lozenges that are specifically designed to help dry mouth. Avoid using candies and mint to treat dry mouth as they concentrate the sugars in one spot. Once a cavity begins it will continue to grow, and can cause tooth pain and even tooth loss if left unaddressed.
With age, the wear and tear of tooth enamel are normal. Sometimes, the wear is so much that it results in the sensitivity of teeth. In that case, we advise using a good desensitizing toothpaste (available over-the-counter) twice a day for about 10-15 days. One of the best tried and tested home remedies is warm saline rinses. Salt is known to be an effective antiseptic and also reduces pain due to inflammation. Besides being excellent for gum health, rinsing with warm salt water 2-4 times daily is also known to be an effective solution to alleviate pain due to sensitive teeth. Just add 3/4th – 1 teaspoon of salt to lukewarm water and mix well. Swish the solution inside your mouth for about 20-30 seconds and spit it out.
Call your dental professional if you experience pain and swelling, pain while eating or drinking, or pain that wakes you up at night. Your concern would be addressed, and you may even be called for a check-up if required. You do not necessarily realize that there is an issue in your teeth unless it causes you pain. So, I encourage you to contact your dental professional, describe your concern, and ask them about their COVID-19 protocol. Dental care is crucial, and the team at Indiadens is making sure that you receive our services in as safe an environment as possible.
To know more about how Indiadens is prepared to provide essential dental care during COVID times, click here for our COVID-19 updates.