The pandemic brought a whole host of changes to our everyday lives. According to the British Dental Association (BDA), 19 million fewer dental appointments were undertaken than expected in 2020. Practices were shut down for regular check-ups for a large portion of the year only allowing emergency dental appointments to be made.
Oral hygiene throughout lockdown
Research undertaken by Oral Health Foundation and Colgate revealed 55% of British adults feel they neglected their teeth during lockdown. Our cleaning habits changed too, with 15% admitting to not brushing their teeth as much as before the pandemic while 19% fell out of the habit of brushing twice a day.
The lack of dental appointments wasn’t the only issue, the same research unveiled lockdown also fuelled unhealthy drinking and eating habits. 20% of adults are now eating unhealthier foods and 11% have been drinking more alcohol. This increase in sugar alongside a decrease in regular brushing and dental appointments could be detrimental to our oral health.
The stress of the pandemic didn’t help either. Many people have experienced increased teeth grinding and jaw clenching, a condition often associated with stress and anxiety. This can lead to facial pain and headaches and also wear your teeth down over time which can lead to increased sensitivity and even tooth loss.
How to keep your mouth healthy
As we adapt to our new normal, it’s important to consider your health and what you did before the pandemic to properly look after your teeth. It’s time to get back into your routine of regular brushing and visiting the dentist for your check-ups to keep any issues that may crop up at bay.
Visit the dentist regularly
To an untrained eye, it’s difficult to see how healthy your teeth and gums are. A lot could be going on without you realising. By the time you have pain, or any other symptoms, you could be far on your way to having an issue in your mouth. Dentists help to prevent problems as well as solve them. They’re able to spot issues including the onset of gum disease and dental decay that can be treated quickly if spotted early enough, so it’s important to keep your annual appointments up to date.
People with good oral health will probably need to attend only once every 12 to 24 months as advised by the NHS. If your dentist recommends you visit more often then you should follow their advice. Dentists pick up early signs of any problems, avoiding larger issues in the long run.
Don’t delay treatment
Delaying treatment will only make the problem worse. If you have tooth decay that requires a filling and leave it for too long, you could end up needing a crown instead or having issues with surrounding teeth as well. Leaving tooth decay untreated can also lead to more bacteria in your mouth causing issues such as gum disease.
If you have untreated gum disease that develops into periodontitis it can lead to further complications. Issues such as abscesses, receding gums, loose teeth or loss of teeth can develop. Gum disease has also been associated with an increased risk for a number of other health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and lung infections. Treating gum disease as early as possible gives you the best chance of getting your mouth back to full health.
Keep them clean
Brushing your teeth twice a day removes plaque to keep your mouth clean and healthy. Plaque is bacteria that coats your teeth when they aren’t brushed contributing to tooth decay and gum disease.
For a thorough clean, brush for around two minutes last thing at night and one other occasion every day, typically in the morning. Make sure you cover all the surfaces of your teeth, including the inside, outside and chewing surfaces. Follow one of your brushes by flossing slowly and thoroughly to remove any plaque and food in between your teeth.
Using a mouthwash that contains fluoride can help prevent tooth decay. Avoid using it straight after brushing your teeth or it'll wash away the concentrated fluoride in the toothpaste left on your teeth. Choose a different time to use mouthwash such as after lunch or before brushing your teeth rather than after.
Cut down on sugar
Sugar is bad for your teeth, so cutting down on your intake can help protect your mouth health. After eating foods that contain sugar, these molecules combine with the saliva and bacteria present in the mouth. This combination leads to plaque on teeth. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and the tooth enamel then breaks down to form a hole or cavity. When you do have something sugary, try to rinse your mouth out afterwards to avoid sugar being stuck on your teeth for longer.
Keep on top of dental care with a health cash plan
Having a health cash plan allows you to claim back money towards a range of healthcare treatments, including dental care.
Without a health cash plan dental treatment can be expensive and cause people to avoid the necessary care due to costs. Put your healthcare as a priority by investing in your health, giving you peace of mind that when something comes up you’re covered.
Find out more about what dental cover you get with your health cash plan, and all of our other benefits by reading our plan guide.