Now I’m someone who needs to go to the dentist four times a year during normal times. I have large teeth that are close together, and while they’re in great shape, my gums are prone to buildup and pockets. When I get four cleanings a year, I stay on top of my dental hygiene. Our dentist was closed for several months in 2020. By the time they reopened, I was eight months pregnant and felt nervous going. I did go, and it went well, but then it was another eight-nine months before I went back. I’m catching up with any treatments I needed during this time, and I’ve also been taking my kids back for regular cleanings, and some sealants, and fillings. Now I feel in control of my dental health, and excited to share tips for post pandemic dental care.
Post Pandemic Dental Care: How to Take Care of Your Teeth as a Family:
Putting off dental care:
I’ve totally been there. There has been an undeniable drop in good oral health during the pandemic. In fact, the American Association of Endodontists did a survey and found that more than half of Americans said coronavirus concerns have caused them to delay regular dental checkups. Plus, 31% answered that they were snacking more on sugary foods during the pandemic, and about 25% said that they were brushing their teeth later in the morning than usual, or not at all. As we all know, these are habits that can have negative long-term effects on your overall health. And that’s because your mouth contains billions of bacteria, and while most of them are beneficial and help break down food to protect your body from harmful microbes, nastier species of bacteria can cause decay if you’re not on top of your family’s oral health.
Some of the issues:
Tooth decay is when bacteria grow and reproduce and then can form a sticky, yellowy substance called plaque that eats away at your teeth’s protective enamel coating. And a very common oral health problem is inflammation of the gums, or gingivitis. Extreme cases of this can lead to periodontitis, an infection characterized by inflammation of the jaw. Now for me, this is a huge concern. I already do practice good dental hygiene but regular dental visits keep the harmful bacteria in check, and also ensures your teeth and gums stay strong and healthy. This is so important! Of course we all want to keep our teeth healthy, and in our mouths, but clean teeth and gums are good for an overall healthy immune system. Bacteria in your mouth can lead to illnesses, like pneumonia, and poor dental health has been linked to serious lifestyle diseases.
Taking care of your teeth as a family:
Of course you want to model good dental hygiene, the way you want to model anything your kids are still learning. This one is a big one for me. In fact, I’m even the one who takes nervous Des to his appointments, because I have had such dental anxiety myself, that I can inspire and help him. And it inspires and helps ME, to be able to inspire and help someone else. My Des!
Quality AND Quantity.
Of course it’s important to keep up a good dental care routine. In my house, we brush and floss twice a day, and the brushing is for two minutes each time (at least). That said, quality is super important! You want to make sure you’re getting each quadrant, and each tooth. You want to make sure you’re brushing firmly but also gently. I have an electric toothbrush with an app that guides me on my brushing, but my kids do not. It’s important that they’re not just brushing and flossing, but are brushing and flossing effectively. This can make all the difference!
Take care of the WHOLE mouth.
This isn’t just for teeth. Brush your cheeks, tongue, and roof of your mouth as well as your teeth! I keep a tongue scraper at home to clean plaque and food particles off of my tongue every night. And I use a mouthwash to rinse away any plaque that can also collect on my cheeks and the roof of my mouth. And definitely don’t skip the floss! This helps get plaque that can get trapped between your teeth and gums. See? The WHOLE mouth! This is an important tip.
A healthy diet matters.
I love to eat crunchy produce. This is one of my favorite tips for gums and teeth! I love to eat celery, carrots, greens, and apples. They help scrape plaque away from your teeth, and also require a lot of chewing. And that produces more saliva which helps rinse more bacteria from your mouth! Plus, these foods also help with hydration. As we know, bacteria forms plaque by feeding on saliva, food particles and sugar, and poor dietary habits can encourage plaque buildup, so it’s important to limit foods high in sugar. And never forget to drink your water!
Schedule regular dental checkups.
It’s important to schedule these visits at least once every six months, where dentists will thoroughly examine your mouth, tongue, and throat to identify potential or existing problems. Then they will do a cleaning. Make sure that if you are trying to go out in public as little as possible, to at least book in any necessary or emergency treatments. Our dentist stayed open during lockdown for emergency treatment and you never know when you will need this.
Some closing thoughts and considerations:
- If you need to find a new dentist, seek out a place that is clean and inviting. In our case, a child-friendly waiting room is important.
Find a dentist who encourages preventative habits and treatments, such as fluoride and/or sealants.
Consider dental insurance. Ameritas offers dental insurance plans that help you and your family pay for the dental services you need to stay healthy. As we know, taking good care of your mouth can help lead to a healthier life overall. And understanding what you can do to improve your dental health is an essential step for your well-being. I didn’t realize how important dental insurance was until I had kids. And by then, there were treatments I was too late for, and ended up paying out of pocket. I’m proud to know more now.
About Ameritas Insurance
Ameritas offers a wide range of insurance and financial products and services. Find out more about Ameritas dental, vision and hearing benefits for employees of small or large companies, and individuals and their families at ameritas.com/employee-benefits.