Most of us are pretty used to living in self-quarantine or under lockdown by now. We're ordering almost everything online, whether it be cleaning supplies or groceries, we're paying bills and even continuing to take classes in an attempt to stop disruptions to our daily lives. And yes, most of us are putting off going to the doctor's as much as we can until absolutely necessary. But what about when we have an emergency, especially one not related to the coronavirus pandemic, like a dental accident? What if you have a broken tooth, or a filling falls out or have an upcoming implant or whitening appointment? And how important is oral and dental hygiene?
According to orthodontic specialist Cihan Çapan, during times of widespread infection, oral and dental care is even more important than usual. As with all other infectious diseases, COVID-19 weakens our immune system, making us more susceptible to other diseases. That loss of immunity can exacerbate gum problems like gingivitis, and depending on the stress levels of the patient, mouth sores can develop. The virus's primary entry point into the body is the mouth, hence, Çapan says, dental health deserves maximum attention.
The virus can also enter the body through other cavities such as the nose and eyes, which are left vulnerable during dental treatment, Çapan said.
So which treatments can wait and which need immediate intervention?
The specialist says anything that can be considered urgent, including severe pain, infection, swelling in the gums and neck, bleeding and trauma, like a broken tooth or fallen fillings, should be tended to and solved as soon as possible.
Çapan says people should be brushing their teeth for at least two minutes twice a day, in addition to flossing and using mouthwash once a day. He also recommends that people wash down their meals with a glass of water, which helps dislodge bits of food stuck in their teeth. Don't let your throat get dry and drink plenty of water throughout the day, he adds.
COVID-19 is caused by the new coronavirus and it attacks the respiratory system causing symptoms such as dry cough, shortness of breath and fever. It is transmitted through respiratory droplets after a person coughs or sneezes. The specialist says this can be especially challenging for dentists, as the electrical tools used in such processes cause the patient's blood and saliva to scatter around in aerosol form.
"That's why the mask-gloves-protective glasses trio are the standard protection method we, and physicians, routinely use while treating each patient. Aprons should also be changed regularly. All instruments used during consultations and treatment must undergo strict sterilization procedures, and the rooms should be regularly ventilated and disinfected," he said. This goes for waiting rooms, treatment areas, offices, sinks and any other places within the clinic you can think of, he added.
Çapan stressed that social distancing should be maintained in waiting rooms, and there should be at least one hour between each patient's appointment times.