With many dentist offices closed for non-urgent care during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are postponing preventive care like regular cleanings and X-rays. Although you may not be focused on good dental hygiene, practicing a few mouth-healthy habits can help you avoid serious dental problems and decrease your risk of needing emergency dental care, even after COVID-19 passes.
1. Take-two, twice daily
It’s easy to skip brushing your teeth in the morning or after a long day. But include morning and evening brushing as part of your daily routine. Use a soft-bristled brush with toothpaste and take two minutes to clean each area of the mouth with gentle motion over the gums. Consider using an electric toothbrush but stay with two minutes of brushing with any method you choose.
2. Floss once
If you brush your teeth and skip the floss, you miss 30% of your tooth surface.1 The area between teeth is usually where gum disease and cavities start to form. Flossing helps protect against both problems. Choose a time of day to work flossing into your routine and take your time to wrap the floss around each tooth. Slide it gently up and down under the gum to remove plaque and food debris. Flossing just once daily will make a big difference in preventing disease.
3. Get a water flosser
A survey by the American Dental Association found that only 16% of the population reports they always floss once a day. And 20% say they only floss when they have something stuck in-between their teeth.2 There are numerous methods for cleaning the hidden areas between teeth, but the key is to find one that works for you. Some people discover that a water flosser works well and easily incorporates into their routine.
You may also find that toothpicks or other special tools work better in your hands. Try different options until you find something that will become a consistent habit.
4. Stop chewing ice
Chewing on ice is a habit that many people find difficult to stop. But breaking the habit is better than breaking teeth. The hard crunching of ice particles puts stress on your tooth enamel. The extreme temperature change adds additional stress to the crystals in this hard, outer tooth layer. The combination of factors creates a risk of cracks forming in your teeth. These cracks may lead to broken pieces, split teeth or nerve damage. If you need repairs, dental insurance can help you cover the costs.
While ice creates the most problems, try to limit corn nuts, popcorn kernels and other hard foods too. If you develop a sharp pain with chewing, that may indicate a cracked tooth. Avoid hard foods until you can see a dentist for further evaluation.
5. Check your diet
A diet that’s high in sugar can contribute to many health ailments, including an increased risk of heart disease.3 Sugar also provides an energy source for oral bacteria to make acid that damages teeth. During isolation periods at home during COVID-19, it may be tempting to consumer sugary snacks and beverages.
Be conscious of the sugar content in common beverages, including fruit juice. Also, many bottled water brands and diet sodas are acidic and that increases the risk of tooth decay. Sticky foods, like white bread and dried fruit, also stay on the teeth and give energy to cavity-causing bacteria.
6. Kick toxins aside
Oral cancer afflicts over 50,000 people each year in the U.S. The most significant risk factor is tobacco use with alcohol being the second biggest contributor. Scientists don’t understand all the reasons why, but the combination of both can increase the risk of oral cancer.4
During shelter-at-home periods, boredom or anxiety can lead to higher use of these substances. Try to avoid starting new detrimental habits and commit to setting unhealthy habits aside. It’s not always easy, but many resources are available to help.
Staying on track
In the busy days of life, we don’t always take time for our health. During COVID-19, you can establish new habits, eliminate old ones and strengthen your current routines. Incorporate mouth-healthy habits for oral wellness and you’ll may experience the benefits for years to come.
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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.