If you’re unable to visit the dentist when you need to, you may feel stressed or frustrated, whether it’s due to practice closure during the holidays or even something unexpected such as the Coronavirus restrictions earlier in the year.
Many people worry that their dental health may suffer if they have to hold off on their regular check-up and clean, or at the thought of a dental emergency popping up out of nowhere.
Luckily, with the right knowledge and preparation, you can keep your teeth in the best shape possible at home and be ready for the unexpected! We’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions below for the times when you can’t make it into the dental practice.
- What is the risk of getting Coronavirus at the dentist?
- How do I look after my teeth when I can’t visit the dentist?
- Which is the best toothpaste?
- Are electric toothbrushes better than manual toothbrushes?
- How often should I replace my toothbrush?
- Does brushing your teeth help prevent Coronavirus?
- How does my diet affect my teeth?
- Why do my gums bleed after brushing and flossing?
- Can I do a professional dental clean at home?
- How do I stop grinding my teeth?
- How do I tell if I have a dental emergency?
- What do I do if I knock my tooth out?
- Which other oral health issues should I worry about?
- Do you need to see a dentist twice a year?
What is the risk of getting Coronavirus at the dentist?
When it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19, dentists are actually better equipped than many other businesses. This is thanks to the extremely high standards of infection control that we have always had in place, which is basically second nature to all of our staff.
Despite being the highest risk category of all medical professionals the number of dentists who contracted COVID-19 in 2020 was negligible due to these meticulous standards of cross infection control that had already been in place prior to the pandemic.
How do I look after my teeth when I can’t visit the dentist?
Believe it or not, most dental problems are actually preventable with a good at-home oral hygiene routine! Ensure you brush your teeth twice daily for at least 2 minutes at a time, as well as floss every day. If you find it hard to floss regularly, using interdental brushes may be a better option as they’re easier to use. These practices will help you avoid tooth decay and gum disease.
Which is the best toothpaste?
It’s important to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride, which prevents cavities from forming and also slows down the rate of current decay becoming worse when it comes to fluoride vs. fluoride-free toothpaste.
The quality of your brushing is more important than which toothbrush you use, but electric toothbrushes generally require less effort while offering better results as they do most of the work for you, with the movement and power of the rotating brush head loosening the plaque on your teeth. Many also feature a built-in timer to ensure you brush for two minutes, which is perfect for those who find themselves tapping out early with a manual toothbrush.
How often should I replace my toothbrush?
We recommend buying a new toothbrush (or brush head if you’re using an electric toothbrush) every three months, and after you’ve been sick, as toothbrushes are prone to accumulating bacteria and saliva.
This is especially one of the best tips for self-isolation oral care or when affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
Does brushing your teeth help prevent Coronavirus?
Research has found that good oral hygiene involving fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash reduce bacteria levels in the mouth due to their antimicrobial ingredients, so regular brushing should be paired with handwashing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Further research is underway to determine if these products can actually kill Coronavirus.
How does my diet affect my teeth?
It’s important to be particularly mindful of what you’re eating when you can’t visit the dentist, as your diet greatly impacts on your oral health. It’s not uncommon to be eating more sugar and drinking more alcohol when at home during the pandemic, or when during the holidays. Over time, this can contribute to tooth decay as the sugars in your food and drinks wear away the enamel of your teeth.
The best way to limit this effect of sugar on your teeth is to pair sweet foods or drinks with a meal and avoid constantly snacking. Also wait to brush your teeth at least half an hour after consuming sugar, as the enamel has become soft and is at risk of damage when brushing immediately.
Why do my gums bleed after brushing and flossing?
When you change your oral hygiene routine, you may experience bleeding gums if you’re brushing or flossing more than you had been previously. This may give the impression that you’re doing something wrong, when in fact it’s often a sign that you haven’t been doing it well enough or as frequently as recommended in the past. Bleeding gums can be an indication of gum disease, which will usually disappear when your gums become healthier as they get used to the routine.
Can I do a professional dental clean at home?
If you start to notice visible plaque or tartar (calcified plaque) forming around the base of your teeth, you may be tempted to try to remove it with tools you find at your local chemist or supermarket. This is definitely not a job that you should take into your own hands!
Although dentists make it look easy, their tools and years of training ensure they can safely scrape away plaque buildup. Trying to do it yourself can cause damage to the surrounding oral tissues such as your gums, exposed tooth roots, infections, or shifting tartar under the gum line.
Instead, be sure to book in for a scale and polish with your dentist as soon as you’re able to.
How do I stop grinding my teeth?
One of the surprising impacts of COVID-19 on teeth is that the stress, poor sleep and changes to work have led to increased teeth grinding. If you notice it during the day, simply being aware can help you to reduce it.
Bruxism, or sleep grinding can be harder to identify alone unless you sleep next to someone who notices it. Otherwise, signs of this issue include difficulty sleeping, jaw pain and headaches. When you can visit the dentist, they will be able to check your teeth to see if it’s causing damage, and offer the most appropriate treatment options for teeth grinding, such as muscle relaxant injections.
How do I tell if I have a dental emergency?
Your dental situation may be an emergency if:
- You’re in severe pain
- You’re bleeding from the mouth
- You have lost a tooth
- You have a loose or wobbly tooth
- You have an infection or facial swelling
Minor pain can be managed with paracetamol or ibuprofen until you can get the issue resolved by your dentist. If you’ve chipped a tooth and aren’t experiencing any pain, this is unlikely to be an emergency. If you lose or break your filling, crown or veneer, you can find emergency repair kits from your local pharmacy until you can make an appointment with your dentist.
What do I do if I knock my tooth out?
If you knock out your tooth, it’s critical that you visit the dentist as soon as possible, as an adult tooth may be reinserted if they can get to it fast enough. The more time a tooth spends outside the mouth, the more likely it will be rejected.
Don’t wash the tooth under water, as this will remove all of the remaining cells that will help it reattach. Hold the tooth by the crown instead of the root, and attempt to place it back into the gum while gently biting down on a clean cloth to keep it in place. If it doesn’t sit in place easily, store the tooth in a container of milk or saliva inside your cheek. You should still visit the dentist for an emergency appointment even if you can’t locate the tooth.
Which other oral health issues should I worry about?
Something else to be mindful of are other persisting mouth issues that could potentially be signs of mouth cancer. These often go ignored as they can be mistaken for minor problems, such as mouth ulcers that stick around for several weeks, or lumps in the mouth or lymph glands in the neck. If you notice any of the above, it’s important to make an appointment with your dentist or doctor to determine the cause.
Do you need to see a dentist twice a year?
If you’ve already been having a check-up and clean regularly with minimal extra treatment required, normally you won’t have to be too concerned if you can’t make your next appointment within 6 months.
Your dentist can identify if you’re more at risk of your dental health suffering when looking at your patient history. In conjunction with regular dental check-ups, maintaining your oral health at home will be the best way to keep your teeth healthy between visits.