The mouth is one of the main entry points for the COVID-19 virus and other pathogens that cause different types of infections. It’s important to maintain good oral health during the pandemic so you can protect yourself and others. You can do this by adopting a good oral hygiene routine and managing other risk factors.
A healthy mouth not only allows you to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow and convey a range of emotions with confidence and without pain, but it also has a positive impact on your general health, well-being and quality of life.
Here are 5 tips on how to protect your oral health during the pandemic:
Practice a good oral hygiene routine
Wash your hands with soap and water before brushing your teeth. When brushing your teeth, make sure to brush for two minutes, twice a day, using a fluoride toothpaste. When brushing is not possible, rinse with a fluoride mouthwash or chew sugar-free gum after meals and snacks instead.
Replace your toothbrush every three months, or immediately after you have been ill. Avoid sharing personal items with people who are ill. This includes your toothbrush. Floss at least once a day. Never reuse floss and do not reuse inter-dental cleaners if you were ill.
Eat a balanced, low-sugar diet
The COVID-19 pandemic can lead to stress and uncertainty, and this can severely impact your oral health. Stress can affect food preferences and may increase the intake of foods high in sugar. Sugar is the number one cause of tooth decay or dental caries, which like most oral health conditions can be prevented.
Eat a well-balanced diet that is low in sugar and high in fruit and vegetables. Adults should have no more than six teaspoons of sugar daily. On the other hand, children should only have 3 teaspoons of sugar a day.
Do not eat sugary snacks and treats between meals. Having sugar throughout the day increases the risk of developing tooth decay.
Make water your main drink. Consuming even one can of sugary drinks per day is not only bad for your mouth. It can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Take charge of your oral health
Stressed people are often more likely to drink alcohol or smoke. Harmful use of alcohol is strongly linked with an increased risk of several cancers, including cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx and oesophagus. Furthermore, the acid and high sugar content of most alcoholic drinks can erode your teeth and cause tooth decay.
Tobacco in any form, smoking or smokeless, is unsafe. Tobacco use puts your mouth at an increased risk of gum disease and oral cancer. It also causes teeth staining, bad breath, premature tooth loss, and loss of taste and smell.
Consult your dentist
Prevention is the best way to avoid oral health problems during the pandemic. However, if you need dental care during the COVID-19 pandemic, do not suffer in silence.
If the policy in your community requires people to stay at home, getting medical care, including going to the dentist, can be an exception to this rule.
If you already had an appointment for a regular check-up, call the dental practice and discuss with the staff whether you should postpone this appointment due to the local or national situation.
If you have dental pain, bleeding that will not stop, a broken tooth or crown, signs of infection, such as swelling and pain, do not wait until it gets worse. Call the dental practice and schedule an appointment to visit the dentist as soon as possible. Do not attempt to treat or relieve any dental problem by yourself.
If possible, go to the appointment alone. Only children and dependents should be accompanied. Arrive on time, rather than early, to minimize the time in the waiting room with other patients. Practice physical distancing when you are in the waiting room. Always follow the rules established by your dental clinic.
Depending on where you live, and if you need to visit the dentist, you must follow the national and local recommendations and contact the dentist for guidance if:
- you have tested positive for COVID-19;
- you have COVID-19 symptoms (dry cough, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, headache);
- you live with someone or were in contact with someone with COVID-19.
Protect yourself and others
Remember the general rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Wear a mask, where recommended.
- Stay at home if your national or local policies require you to do so.
- Practice physical distancing and stay at least 2 meters away from other people.
Want to be better prepared for the pandemic?
For more information about how to protect yourself and others, you can take our Pandemic Certification Program, which trains healthcare professionals to develop a mastery in knowledge of pandemic preparedness and management. This 30-hour online program is complete with resources and certification exam.