Dental offices closed their doors for non-essential visits across the U.S. in mid-March due to COVID-19. Aside from emergency appointments for severe pain, swelling, uncontrolled bleeding, or anything that might result in a trip to the ER, all routine appointments were placed on hold indefinitely. This means a lot of us may not have had check-ups, cleanings, fillings, cosmetic treatments, or any minor procedures since then.
Now that many dentists have fully reopened, many will likely be scheduling significantly fewer appointments each day to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between patients and to carve out enough time for extra safety measures. Experts tell Allure those measures include pre-screening, temperature-taking, piling on extra PPE, and diligently sanitizing, just to name a few. Since it seems fair to say many of us may not feel ready to get in that chair for a while, Allure asked dentists and orthodontists for advice on how to keep our mouths healthy and clean from home.
Stick to the Basics: Brush & Floss
The single best thing you can do to maintain a healthy mouth is continue to brush and floss regularly. Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes and floss at least once a day. If you’ve been slacking off on taking care of your teeth over the past few weeks (or months), it’s not too late to bounce back without causing permanent damage. “Cavities are not something that happen overnight. In this quarantine window it's unlikely that something developed during this time. Your body can tolerate a little lax in routine — just get back on the horse,” explains Matt Nejad, a dentist in Beverly Hills, California.
Lawrence Fung, a dentist in Los Angeles, agrees. "Even if you have the beginnings of cavities, they can often be remineralized with fluoride," explains Fung. Have bracers or aligners? Then practicing good dental hygiene is especially important in preventing cavities and other issues during this time. "If you have aligners or braces, and you’re snacking more than usual since you’re home, you’ll need to be even more diligent with brushing and flossing. These devices cover areas of your teeth where plaque can accumulate, so you’ll want to be extra mindful,” says Gabriel Ollins, an orthodontist in Nutley, New Jersey.
Hello Naturally Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste, $4 (Shop Now)
Cocofloss, $9 (Shop Now)
Add Some Dentist-Approved Tools to Your Kit
Pros recommend that we replace our toothbrush every three to four months, so if you’re overdue, grab a new one. Once you have a fresh brush, remember to store it upright, in a dry place, away from anyone else’s brush. Another helpful gadgets to consider buying: an electric toothbrush, "which can help with the efficiency of cleaning," according to Alphonse Matrone, a dentist in Olyphant, Pennsylvania.
"I started using [a water floss and brush] and my teeth feel squeaky clean," notes Nejad. Mouthwash is a great extra step to solve for any concerns you might have.
Conair Interplak Cordless Portable Water Flossing System, $25 (Shop Now)
Cavity prone? Try a rinse with fluoride or a nano silver formula. “Silver nano kills bacteria, disrupts plaque, and encourages mineral re-building," Nejad adds. Dry mouth? Try an alcohol-free formula, which can prevent dehydration. “If you use a retainer or aligners, you can buy over-the-counter cleansing tablets to help keep them germ-free," explains Ollins. “But please don’t boil your retainer as a means of disinfection, as it will warp the structure and make it ineffective," he warns.
Listerine Total Care Anticavity Mouthwash, $7 (Shop Now)
Elementa Nano Silver Adult Rinse, $25 (Shop Now)
Retainer Brite Tablets, $14 (Shop Now)
Try a Post-Snack Swish
Brushing immediately after eating or drinking can be too abrasive if you just had something acidic like coffee or fruit. Instead, Nejad recommends swishing some water around your mouth, then brushing 30 minutes later. “This restores a normal pH and activates saliva, which is your natural defense against bacteria and plaque," says Nejad. Try this after drinking cocktails, too. Alcohol can cause dry mouth, which is a breeding ground for plaque and bacteria, but swishing water can counteract that.
Prevent Stress-Induced Grinding
We’re all more stressed than usual right now, which can lead to overnight grinding. “Grinding can have short term effects, like jaw soreness, and long term effects, like TMJ and nerve damage," explains Matrone. “There are mouth guards you can try, but an unwinding pre-bedtime routine might be the best defense as it sets the tone for how well you sleep, which can reduce or eliminate grinding," he adds. His recommendations: Read a book (not the news), listen to chill music, or meditate.
Keep in Touch With Your Dentist
If you’re experiencing any pain or symptoms, don’t hesitate to call or email your dentist. Many can assess and diagnose the situation virtually through teledentistry and might have a simple at home solution for you. “We’re always available. If patients need us, we never want them to feel like we’re not available to them," expresses Ollins. “We are embracing technology in new ways and we’ll find a way to cater to them and make it work. We even have instructional videos on our site that teach patients how to take pictures so we can troubleshoot together. We want to keep in touch and be there for you during this time."
According to Matrone, many insurance companies have expanded their coverage guidelines for teledentistry to ensure patients get the support they need. "We’re taking lots of phone consults and reviewing photos sent by text or email. Whatever it takes to put patients’ minds at ease," says Matrone. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your dentist what measures they’re taking to keep patients safe from the novel coronavirus once they reopen.
For example, in addition to limiting their schedule to just one patient in the office at a time, and gearing up in head-to-toe PPE, Nejad’s practice will be getting tested for COVID-19 weekly and hope to be able to offer tests to their patients as well. All of the dentists Allure interviewed had comparably thoughtful and reassuring safety measures planned to keep everyone as healthy as possible. “We’re in this together," Fung adds.
Read more about health and wellness during COVID-19:
Now watch three makeup artists turn themselves into a sunset:
Originally Appeared on Allure