We've passed the one year of lockdown measures, working from home, and limiting our movement. It's fair to say COVID has changed a lot about our lives. Cooking more meals at home, a calendar full of zoom meetings, not seeing friends and families are now woven into our lives. But what's less obvious is that the changes brought on by the pandemic are all adding up to a bad situation for our smiles. Here is our dental experts' top-5-list of how COVID is wreaking havoc on our smiles.
1️⃣ Our oral hygiene habits are out the 🪟 window
Think about it. You probably spent years (maybe decades) building up your daily routine and figuring out how to consistently remember to brush and floss your teeth. Our oral health habits depend on our commitment to a schedule. When COVID rolled around, our familiar and comfortable schedules became a thing of the past. And so did our good habits.
Now our commute is rolling out of bed and looking presentable on an 8am Zoom call with a coffee and bagel off screen. Next thing you know it's 1pm and you never got around to brushing your teeth in the morning. If this sounds familiar you're not alone - 25% of Americans say they wait until later in the morning than usual to brush their teeth now.
What's worse is that as our brushing and flossing habits need to be rebuilt, our eating habits are creating a whole new threat to our pearly whites.
2️⃣ Changes in our eating habits are chipping away at our enamel 😟
Working from home makes it easier to get to the bathroom, easier to work without shoes on, and easier to swing through the kitchen to get a quick snack. If you're like a typical American, you're eating more frequently, drinking more sugary beverages, and consuming more carbs (chips, candy, alcohol). In fact, 66% of Americans are snacking more at home these days. And 20% of Americans reported an increase in their alcohol consumption.
Sugary drinks, alcoholic drinks, and many snack foods are full of carbohydrates. That's not just a threat to your waistline, it's a threat to your teeth. The carbohydrates from snacks, soda, and alcohol produce acid in your mouth. That acid wears away at your enamel and makes you susceptible to tooth sensitivity, cavities, and tooth decay.
Dentists surveyed by the American Dental Association have seen an increase in cavities, and periodontal disease (aka gum disease).
"I've definitely seen an increase in gum health and cavities in patients since last summer. It's clear that patients at-home habits and missing one or two cleanings is taking a toll on their teeth," says Iman Zayed, RDH.
Our habits aren't the only thing adding carbohydrates to our diet. When we're feeling bored or stressed we crave sugary and fatty food. But acids from carbohydrates isn't the only risk from all that COVID stress.
3️⃣ Stress is causing us to crack our teeth 😖
Simply put, stress causes us to grind and clench our teeth, and a lot more of us are grinding. A report from the American Dental Association showed that 59.4% of dentists reported an increase in the prevalence of bruxism (aka teeth grinding). All that extra pressure leads to cracked teeth. Dentists around the country are also noticing an increase in cracked teeth since the pandemic started.
Looking at the past year, there is no shortage for new sources of stress.
- Stress over trying not to get COVID
- Endless opportunities to doom scroll
- Job losses
- Financial insecurity
- Feeling out of control
Then factor in that many of our home-offices may have poor ergonomics (which causes us to grind at night), and that sleep disorders or sleep disruption also cause teeth grinding. It's no wonder that cracked teeth are on the rise.
4️⃣ The rise of mask 😷 mouth 😷
It's time to run an errand. You put on your shoes, grab your phone, and strap on your mask. Then, zowie! What is that smell? That's mask mouth - your own stinky breath circulating in your mask. That protective mask doesn't just keep bad things out, it keeps your bad breath in.
But it's not just about being more aware of your bad breath, wearing a mask could be a source of that halitosis. How? Wearing a mask makes us more likely to breath through our mouth, and breathing through the mouth can cause dry mouth.
“Dry mouth isn’t only uncomfortable, it’s often responsible for the rapid increase of dental health concerns, such as decay issues. When dry mouth occurs, bacteria numbers skyrocket, which create unwanted inflammatory responses and often produce negative byproducts such as acids in the saliva. It can be a challenging situation to control, but is crucial in maintaining oral health." - Sarah , RDH
All that bacteria leads to more acidity in the mouth which cause cavities and, you guessed it, bad breath.
5️⃣ Patients are going to the dentist less - and it's taking a toll
As Americans' teeth take a beating, we're also seeing the dentist less than we did before the pandemic. In the spring of 2020, nearly all dentists closed their doors except for emergencies. Now dentists are fully open again, but they've seen that patient volume has dropped 20% from it's pre-COVID levels. Not going in for cleanings leads to plaque buildup, tartar, and eventually dental decay.
Patients aren't just skipping their cleanings, they are delaying seeing during the spring of 2020, and dentists are seeing the consequences of delaying dental care. Small oral health issues are turning into larger problems as patients put off seeing the dentist. Not only is it a bigger issue, it will be a more expensive issue to take care of.
Still reading after this 5-point picture of doom and gloom for your teeth? Don't despair! We have a little ray of ☀️ sunshine just for you!
It's not too late to help turn around COVID's effects on your smile. 99% of what we can do for our teeth comes from how we care for our teeth at home. Level up your at home routine with Wally's custom oral care. It's curated by a dental expert and shipped right to your door.