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Why dental hygiene is hugely important in the fight against COVID-19

Not taking care of your oral health can leave you with something a lot worse than bad teeth. From diabetes to cardiovascular disease, neglecting dental hygiene can result in all kinds of dangerous health conditions, including COVID-19.

To support the people in your local community, it’s important you help your patients understand the connection between the coronavirus and proper oral care. So you can easily explain the relationship between the two, here’s some information on why dental hygiene is hugely important in the fight against COVID-19.  

Neglecting oral care puts patients at risk of COVID-19

The mouth is a window to your overall health. All mouths are teeming with mostly harmless bacteria. But because the mouth is the entry point to the digestive and respiratory tracts, if harmful bacteria is present in the mouth, it can quickly spread to other parts of the body and wreak havoc. 

When patients ignore their oral health, bacteria build-up can cause diseases which stop the body’s immune system from working properly. Without a strong immune system, patients are at risk of developing all kinds of illnesses, such as the coronavirus. 

There’s currently no COVID-19 vaccine. Until one becomes publicly available, your patients’ best defence against the disease is to ensure their immune systems are strong enough to combat the virus.

Patients can reduce their risk of COVID-19 with proper dental hygiene

There are many steps patients can take to protect their teeth and gums while reducing their chances of developing health problems at the same time. Here’s what you should encourage your patients to do to maintain their dental hygiene and stay healthy.

Attend routine checkups

There are plenty of people understandably wary about going to the dentist over fears of contracting COVID-19. But patients having their teeth properly cleaned and checked over by a trained dental hygienist is the best way to recognize minor symptoms early on before they develop into dangerous health conditions.

After several weeks of only being able to provide urgent treatment, it’s possible your practice will experience an influx of patients requesting routine checkups. If this is the case, consider hiring temporary dental staff to deal with the increase of work.

COVID19 handout dental practices pdf file

When you hire dental professionals with Cloud Dentistry, you only pay for the exact hours worked. This means when you have extra appointments, you can hire additional dental staff or extend their hours. When things go back to normal and your appointment schedule quietens down, you can reduce the number of temporary staff and/or lower their hours.

Continue brushing and flossing

Encouraging your patients to keep up a thorough brushing and flossing routine is essential. Steven Davidowitz, a cosmetic dentist in New York, told the Huffington Post, “No. 1 in improving oral hygiene is being sure we are brushing, rinsing and flossing twice a day.”

When patients look after their teeth and gums this way at home, they reduce the amount of bacteria in their mouths. With less bacteria, their immune systems are likely to be stronger and put up more of a fight against COVID-19.

Limit candy consumption

It’s almost cliche for a dentist to recommend their patients cut down on candy, but this guidance is more true now than ever before. Candy is acidic which can cause a build-up of germ-filled plaque that causes tooth decay. When bacteria enters teeth through cavities and is left untreated, it can work its way into the bloodstream and affect the immune system.

Instead of asking your patients to avoid candy at all costs. Suggest they limit sugary foods to once per day and to brush their teeth within one hour of consumption to reduce the negative side effects.

Drink more water

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated also helps keep plaque and bacteria at bay. Deanna Wallarty, a public health dental hygiene practitioner at the School of Dental Medicine explained to Penn Today that if a patient doesn’t like the taste of tap water, suggest they use filters to remove any bad flavors without removing the fluoride.

When someone drinks water with fluoride, it naturally combines with their salvia. This creates a mild fluoride mouthwash which helps maintain good oral health throughout the day and limit the bacteria in the mouth.

Look after your toothbrush

While taking care of teeth is important, it’s just as essential to look after your toothbrush. Bacteria and sickness-causing fungi can live on a toothbrush and cause all kinds of illnesses. To avoid getting sick, everyone should change the head on their electric toothbrush (or their entire toothbrush if using a manual one) at least once every three months. 

To help keep the bristles properly clean, it’s a good idea to rinse the toothbrush daily with hydrogen peroxide.

Avoid sharing dental products

Because of the coronavirus, people are well-aware how easily germs can be passed on. But there are some things we share with close family members without even thinking about it. If your patients share any oral hygiene products, such as a toothbrush, dental floss or toothpaste, with someone else, they need to stop immediately.

Because we’re in the middle of a viral pandemic, it’s wise to avoid sharing anything you handle with your hands before placing in your mouth. Using individual dental products is one of the best ways to stop the transference of germs that cause illnesses like MRSA, herpes and COVID-19.

Thoroughly clean orthodontic appliances

Retainers, mouth guards and clear aligners can all collect bacteria and viruses through regular use.

To properly clean them, rinse the appliance in warm or cold water (avoid hot water as it could damage the plastic) and dry thoroughly. Apply a good quality orthodontic appliance cleaner or soak in a mixture of white wine vinegar and cold water for 15 minutes before storing in the holding case. 

There’s a lot more to oral care than a Hollywood smile

It’s important your patients understand their regular checkups are for much more than maintaining a bright white smile. Ensuring their teeth and gums are healthy is one step towards cultivating overall health.

At a time like this when staying healthy is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, let your patients know they can reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19 and many other viruses by maintaining their oral care routine at home, attending regular checkups and making appointments as soon as they think something is wrong.

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