The longer the pandemic stretches on, the more we’re all learning about the impact of COVID-19 on all aspects of our overall health – oral health, included.
While the implications of contracting such a deadly virus are well documented, the oral health damage of COVID-19 is something that can last much longer. Here are some COVID-related oral health items to consider during, and after, the pandemic ends:
Dry Mouth – Asore throat, cough, and shortness of breath are all symptoms of a coronavirus infection, and these symptoms can lead to dry mouth, causing oral health issues. When there is a lack of saliva in the mouth, which serves as a cleaning and moistening agent, cavity-causing bacteria is prevented from being washed away. This means food debris may remain in contact with teeth, leading to cavities. It also means there’s an increased risk of gum disease as well.
Cough Drop Usage – Those pesky aches and pains in the mouth and throat are the worst, and they’re often remedied with cough drops and syrups. The trouble is most of these treatments contain sugar that helps to mask the unpleasant taste of the medicine. Though this makes them more palatable, it also introduces the possibility of sugars left on the teeth. This is another avenue for tooth decay because sugar can eat away enamel.
Inhalers – A solution for shortness of breath, as well as coughing, is often the use of an inhaler—which plenty of people have for a variety of health reasons. What many folks don’t realize is that using an inhaler can lead to oral thrush, a yeast infection in the mouth. This can occur when medicine residue is left in your mouth and on your tongue. Symptoms of oral thrush include a burning sensation in the mouth, an unpleasant taste or loss of taste altogether, redness in the oral cavity, and white patches.
Stress – More and more, stress is becoming its own side effect of this long-lasting pandemic, and it is frequently manifesting itself in oral health damage relating to COVID-19. There are obviously many things to worry about, whether it is work or working from home or money or food or just the anxiety that comes with constantly dodging a deadly disease. But common things dentists are seeing are jaw pain, headaches/migraines, and even tooth fractures, and it seems that teeth clenching and grinding are the culprits.
So, while frequent brushing and flossing—particularly after eating cough drops, taking cough syrups, or using an inhaler—can help remedy some oral health issues, tackling stress-related implications can be handled in a variety of ways.
Focus on awareness – The first thing you can do is identify when the stress clenching and/or grinding is occurring. Make sure your teeth aren’t touching when you’re relaxed and consider using a night or mouth guard during the day to help curb the bad habit before it manifests in costly problems.
Maintain good posture – While you may not realize it, bad posture—which includes slouching—can result in teeth clenching. San Francisco–based dentist Nammy Patel, D.D.S., recommends adding some stretching routines to your day to keep your jaw loose while you work.
Manage your stress – Knowing you’re stressed and managing your triggers and mental state will help as well. Consider taking some time to refresh and meditate, or try relaxing in a warm bath. Whatever it is, allowing yourself space to decompress can help.
Keep your routine – One of the easiest and most important ways to maintain good oral health is to brush and floss at least twice daily, regardless of what is going on in and round your life. Not only will the routine keep your teeth healthy, but it will help you create a habit of taking care of yourself as well.
If you think you’re experiencing any oral health damage from COVID-19, or any other mouth ailment, contact your dentist immediately. Identifying and resolving issues quickly can help keep them from getting worse (and more costly)!