Your overall bodily health connects to the health of your teeth and gums. Over the past two years, many health professionals have wondered about the effects that COVID-19 has had on dental health. Nearly four in every ten patients diagnosed with COVID-19 report some kind of oral health symptom, such as dry mouth or loss of taste.
Peach Valley Dental is here to offer some insight into the connection between COVID-19 and dental health. If you have any questions about dental health and COVID-19, feel free to call us or read our blog!
COVID-19 Lockdown and Limited Access to Oral Healthcare
COVID-19 led to limited access to oral healthcare during lockdowns since many dental practices closed due to COVID or only operated for emergency procedures. These closures resulted in many patients not receiving proper dental care and maintenance, which can result in tooth loss, tooth decay, teeth and gum disease, and other dental issues.
Altered Sense of Taste
Many patients have reported an altered sense of taste or smell after contracting COVID-19. According to a 2020 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly 50% of surveyed subjects reported complete resolution of taste and smell issues after four weeks, while 40% reported lessened symptoms after four weeks.
About 12% reported that loss of taste and smell persisted or worsened after four weeks – nearly one out of every ten patients. The most likely cause of lost taste and smell is damage to sustentacular cells lining the taste buds on the tongue.
Dry Mouth and COVID
A significant portion of COVID-19 patients also reported lingering or persistent dry mouth. A dry mouth can increase the risk of developing periodontal disease, mouth infections, tooth decay and can also make it more difficult to wear dental prostheses, such as dentures. A dry mouth can cause unhealthy gums, which increase the risk of a wide range of dental issues with your teeth and gums. These issues can also include gingivitis, bad periodontal disease, and bad breath.
If you have a dry mouth, it is important to brush your teeth after every meal and at least once in the morning and evening. You should also floss at least once daily to remove any food particles trapped between your teeth. It is also recommended to use a mouth rinse or other oral care products that are designed to provide moisturization to your mouth. Avoiding alcohol, smoking, and caffeinated drinks can also help with a dry mouth. Consumption of sugarless candy containing xylitol can prevent tooth decay associated with dry mouth due to its antibacterial effects on the saliva.
Dry mouth symptoms are usually mild but can become more severe with time if not treated. “Symptoms of dry mouth may include a sticky feeling in the mouth, problems speaking or swallowing certain foods and liquids, and increased thirst,” according to Mayo Clinic. “You also may produce less saliva when you eat or drink.”
Dry mouth associated with COVID-19 can also cause mouth sores or infections. Generally, canker sores and mouth ulcers are temporary and should resolve themselves after some time. If mouth sores persist, then you should seek out a dental professional.
Other infections dry mouth can cause include thrush, periodontal disease, and dental caries. While typically mild, serious mouth infections can be life-threatening and lead to heart and neurological issues.
Teeth Grinding and Pandemic Stress
In addition to oral health issues, many people report increased teeth grinding and jaw clenching due to stress from COVID-19. Many people have suffered physical, financial, or emotional stress during the pandemic, and one of the most common manifestations of high-stress levels is teeth grinding.
Teeth grinding and jaw clenching can cause your teeth and gums to hurt or lead to cracked teeth and jawbones. Other common symptoms of excessive teeth grinding include headaches, muscle problems, and loose teeth.
How to Care for Your Teeth and Gums
Here are some expert tips for healthy teeth and healthy gums.
- Brush twice a day, especially before going to bed. Many adults remember to brush in the morning, but it’s most important to brush your teeth before sleeping. Long sleeping periods give time for more plaque and germs to accumulate.
- Remember to brush your tongue. Your tongue collects the same bacteria that your teeth do, which can lead to tongue infection and bad breath. Remember to brush your tongue softly every time you brush your teeth.
- Floss your gums. Flossing is an important part of keeping healthy gums, and you should floss at least once a day. Flossing after a long time can cause your gums to bleed slightly, but it will stop eventually.
- Eat healthy. Healthy food with fiber and vitamins is good for your teeth and can remove plaque. In contrast, foods high in acids or sugar can cause tooth enamel to break down, leading to tooth decay.
- See a dentist twice a year. Dental checkups are like car engine checkups – they can prevent costly problems if you follow a regular schedule. We recommend seeing a dentist at least once every six months.
Contact a Dentist in Atlanta, GA
Proper dental healthcare is vital to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. If you require expert dental services in Atlanta, GA, call Peach Valley Dental today at (404) 254-5196 to schedule an appointment!
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