With the worldwide spread of the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus, also referred to as Covid-19 or Coronavirus, our federal government has set forth federal guidelines that strongly encourage people to stay home to slow the spread of the virus. Although this is simply a recommendation at the federal level, many state and local governments have made social distancing guidelines mandatory.
Furthermore, the American Dental Association has responded to this crisis by publishing their own recommendation for dentists across the country. As of April 1st, the ADA advises all dentists to temporarily close their practices to any elective or preventive dental procedures and instead focus solely on urgent or emergency cases to limit unnecessary close contact. Currently, this recommendation is in place until April 30th, however it could potentially be expanded.
Since your dentist is temporarily suspending any elective dental treatments, it is necessary to maintain your oral health until your next dental appointment. Although you can visit your local dental office in the case of an emergency, this results in close contact exposure that could possibly increase your risk of being exposed to the virus. In order to protect you and your oral health during this time, here are a few guidelines you can follow:
Maintain Your Daily Dental Routine
While it is very likely that your normal daily routine has been compromised by social distancing guidelines, one key part of your routine should remain the same in order to preserve your oral health. It is still necessary to brush your teeth twice a day using a soft bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste, as well as to floss daily. Both these habits remove excess plaque and bacteria from your mouth to decrease the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Watch Your Diet
Another way to maintain your oral health is through regulating what you eat. Since the bacteria that cause tooth decay feed primarily on sugars, you will want to avoid consuming excess sugar to reduce the risk of decay. This means that things like sweets, carbs, and sodas should be consumed in moderation. Rinsing your mouth with milk or water after eating sugary foods can also help to alleviate the damage done to your teeth.
However, sugar is not the only threat to your oral health. During this time, it is also recommended to avoid foods that are extremely hard, chewy, crunchy, or sticky. This is because these foods may result in dental emergencies like broken teeth or dislodged dental restorations.
Don’t Forget Your Dental Appliances
If your dentist has prescribed any type of dental appliance, it is important that you continue to wear this appliance as directed. Chances are, your dental appliance has been prescribed as a way to maintain and improve your oral health or as a way to prevent dental issues. In some cases, like undergoing Invisalign treatment, not wearing your dental appliances as directed can even prolong your treatment. In other cases, like bruxism treatment, not wearing a prescribed night guard can result in tooth damage and jaw pain.
Avoid Damaging Behaviors
The final way to preserve your oral health and prevent dental emergencies is to simply avoid behaviors that can damage your teeth, dental restorations, or soft tissue. Such behaviors include nail biting, chewing on ice or pens, smoking, and using your teeth as a tool to open or hold things. Basically, just use your teeth for chewing and biting food.
During this trying time, it is our hope that you will not need our emergency dental services. However, in the unfortunate event of a dental emergency, know that our doors are open for you. If you believe you are experiencing a dental emergency, call our office for further information or to schedule an emergency dental appointment.
Dr. Gerard J. Lemongello Jr. graduated from the University of Florida College of Dentistry and has been in private practice since 1987. His focus is on cosmetic and comprehensive restorative rehabilitative dentistry. He is a member of the American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association and Academy of General Dentistry, and is an accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.