The American Dental Association hasn’t released a survey verifying an increase in dental problems since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but anecdotal stories are popping up across the country. Why have teeth and gums become collateral damage during this pandemic, and which problems are dentists seeing the most?
Dental Issues that are Trending Up
Here’s a look at which dental health problems are spiking in the age of COVID:
Dentists report that their patients’ mouths are dirtier, with more gum inflammation than before the pandemic. Worryingly, emerging evidence also suggests that COVID-19 patients with gum disease have a greater risk of needing a ventilator to breathe.
A woman in California, who never missed her quarterly dentist visits before COVID-19 hit, recently cracked three teeth while eating. A dentist in Iowa noticed a trend among his patients as well. He restored twice as many broken teeth in August 2020 than in the same month last year, even while treating fewer patients overall.
A dentist in Beverly Hills noticed an 18 percent increase in cavity treatments from July through September compared to the same months last year.
That same Beverly Hills dentist received increased complaints of jaw pain and saw a 36 percent increase in orders for mouth guards. This product prevents nighttime tooth grinding, which can lead to jaw soreness and cracked teeth.
Why the Increase in Dental Issues during the Pandemic?
There isn’t a single reason for the upward trend in tooth and gum problems. Rather, it’s a perfect storm of several factors coming together at once:
Postponed dentist visits
Concerns about spreading or contracting the coronavirus have led many patients to delay professional oral care. In fact, only one in five adults has visited the dentist amid the pandemic, even though two in five say they have had tooth or gum issues since at least March.
Business closures, job losses, and financial instability make living through a pandemic incredibly stressful. This can increase muscle tension in the jaw, leading to tooth clenching and grinding. Stress also causes inflammation, which can lead to gum disease.
Less emphasis on personal hygiene
Reduced social outings make it easier to skip brushing and flossing. Working from home also increases the temptation to indulge in snacks and sugary drinks, which can lead to cavities.
It’s Safe to Visit the Dentist
In mid-March, the American Dental Association urged dental offices to close for all but emergency care. That recommendation lasted for several weeks. Since then, dentists have reopened with new precautions in place. Mandatory temperature checks, required face coverings, staggered check-in times, increased disinfection frequency, and medical-grade HEPA air filtration all serve to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.
If you’re experiencing oral health issues, don’t put off your next dentist visit! We’re ready to serve you, whether you need restorative services or preventative cleanings. To get started, please contact one of our dental offices, or request an appointment online.