young man brushing teeth while looking in the mirror

Looking after your oral health during the coronavirus pandemic

Following Government advice, whilst we’ve suspended routine dental care, many of our practices are taking your calls and offering support and guidance for ongoing treatment or emergency dental issues over the phone.

We’ve created some useful tips to help you look after your oral health while you can’t see a dentist for your usual check-up, including brushing, flossing and diet advice.

Brushing is key

When you’re not in your usual daily routine, it’s easy to forget about simple daily tasks like brushing your teeth. However, it’s important you remember to brush thoroughly, twice a day, to prevent tooth decay.

A way to remember, is to brush your teeth at the same time every day so it forms a habit, or brush your teeth at the same time as other people who live in your household.

Brushing your teeth removes plaque, which prevents tooth decay and all the problems that come with it, such as toothache. You won’t be able to see your hygienist or have a check-up with your dentist during the coronavirus pandemic, so it’s even more vital you keep brushing to prevent problems.

Keep flossing

We all know that brushing twice a day is key for your oral health, but what about flossing? Research has shown that brushing only removes 60% of plaque from your mouth*. You need flossing to make sure you remove plaque wedged in between your teeth.

Simon Oldfield, a dentist at Bupa Dental Care explained, “Food, plaque and sticky bacteria can reside in the tight gaps between your teeth. If you don’t remove this, it causes tooth decay and gum disease.”

Follow these tips for successful flossing

  • Use either floss or interdental brushes to clean in-between the teeth. If you have very small gaps, you might not be able to use interdental brushes
  • Make sure you get between every tooth, even those molars right at the back
  • If you’re using floss, hold it tightly and guide it gently back and forth, especially along the gumline, you’ll start to see the white plaque shift and cling to the floss

Eating well to protect your teeth and gums

While staying at home, it’s easy to open the fridge and reach for sweet treats more than usual. While sugary treats are fine in moderation, it’s important to make sure you’re still looking out for your oral health.

Our dentist, Simon, explained, “Sugar is the food source of bacteria that causes tooth decay. Every time you eat something sugary, your teeth are under attack for about an hour. During this time, bacteria produce harmful acid in your mouth.

“The best thing you can do is to limit the amount and frequency of sugar you consume. Try to eat sugary foods with meals instead of snacking throughout the day to limit damage, and rinse your mouth out with water after you eat something sugary. Try and avoid sugary food and drinks close to bedtime, as this is when your saliva levels are at their lowest.”

Get familiar with checking the traffic light system on packaging when you’re in the supermarket. If the sugar section is red, look for an alternative. Here are our top tips for foods that protect your teeth and the foods you should be watching out for:

Read our full ‘Guide to nature’s toothbrushes’.

Managing stress and anxiety

During the coronavirus pandemic, you might be feeling more anxious or stressed than usual. Stress can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health, but stress can also harm your oral health.

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is often linked to stress, but lots of people aren’t aware they have the condition because it happens in their sleep. If you’re experiencing bruxism, you might have symptoms including:

  • Headaches
  • Earache
  • Stiffness and pain in the jaw or mouth
  • Teeth which are breaking or look worn down
  • Facial swelling

If you’re experiencing these symptoms and you think they might be related to teeth grinding, get in touch with your local Bupa Dental Care dentist, who can provide you with further advice. Whether you’re an existing patient or not, we will take your call and try our best to help.

One of the key strategies to tackle teeth grinding is to de-stress before you sleep. You could try:

  • Reading before bed to relax. Avoid looking at the news or scrolling on social media before you sleep
  • Practicing deep breathing exercises and listening to relaxing music to get you in a calm mindset before you go to bed
  • Doing yoga or practising meditation in the evening to help relax you
  • Using a mouthguard at night if the tips above don’t work. You can order a boil in the bag mouthguard online in the interim until you can see your dentist

If you grind your teeth in the day, keep a diary about when you grind your teeth and what you were thinking about before you started, or if you were particularly anxious. This can help you to eliminate triggers that could be causing teeth grinding.

Even if you can manage your teeth grinding at home, you should still book an appointment with your local practice when they re-open for routine care, so they can suggest a more permanent solution and check your mouth for potential damage.

How to spot a problem with your teeth

Whilst routine dental care is temporarily unavailable, following the advice in this article is important to keep your teeth healthy until you can see your dentist. Potential signs that you have a problem include:

  • Toothache
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods, which happens when the enamel on your tooth starts to wear away
  • Discomfort when eating sugary foods or fizzy drinks, these foods can often irritate tooth decay
  • Pain or discomfort when biting down, which can be caused by tooth decay, a loose filling or a crack in your tooth
  • Staining on your tooth, which might appear as white or dark spots on the teeth. This is a sign of tooth decay

If you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort, read our article about managing toothache and other common dental pain at home. If you experience any of the above symptoms, we’d encourage you to visit your local practice to get checked out once it reopens for routine dental care.

From Bupa Dental Care

The health, wellbeing and safety of our patients, their families and our people remain our top priority at Bupa Dental Care. We’d like to thank our patients for their understanding during the COVID-19 situation.

Once it is safe for our practices to re-open, we encourage you to get in touch and book an appointment. The latest status of our practices can be found at: Caring for you during COVID-19. If you’re experiencing a dental emergency, find and contact your local Bupa Dental Care practice who can offer telephone support and advice to patients with urgent need. They can also direct you to the most appropriate support location if further care is needed.

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