COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown have hit oral health in more ways than one. This article discusses dental health issues in lockdown during COVID-19 and how they can be prevented.
The world is currently suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no treatment yet available for this highly contagious infection. The only effective way that most countries have adopted is lockdown and isolation to prevent the rapid spread of the disease. Although this strategy is helping in containing the infection, it has also resulted in several other healthcare issues due to stress, uncertainty, anxiety, and lack of proper care of the human body such as exercise and intake of a suitable diet.
General body issues that have surfaced in the population are due to dietary and lifestyle issues. There are growing concerns about obesity, weight gain, hypertension, worsening of diabetes, and strokes. This has increased due to a sedentary lifestyle and increased craving for foods due to lockdown. In addition to this, psychiatric issues have also increased due to anxiety, depression, grief, sorrow, and family conflicts.
Dental health is an important pillar of general health, as the oral cavity is the gateway to the body. Any problem with the oro-dental apparatus can severely impact the overall health of an individual. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, dental health is also compromised, and a chain of dental-related issues have surfaced. These are:
Halitosis or bad breath.
Jaw fatigue or pain.
1) Tooth Pain:
It is caused due to consumption of carbohydrate-rich food. It is commonly observed that people eat more when they have nothing else to do and idle. It also increases cravings to eat more and more food. Any tooth that is weakened by minor dental decay can progress to major problems due to the availability of sugar-rich food, as it accelerates the activity of microbes in the oral cavity, resulting in pain.
It is caused due to poor oral hygiene and improper brushing. Moreover, patients having any underlying medical condition such as diabetes mellitus show symptoms of generalized sensitivity due to poor oral hygiene and lack of prophylactic dental care treatment from the closure of dental clinics in an attempt to check the spread of infection via aerosol generation during treatment.
3) Halitosis or Bad Breath:
It is caused due to poor oral hygiene and lack of brushing due to anxiety. Moreover, due to lack of exercise in lockdown, patients may suffer from constipation and other gastrointestinal disturbances causing bad breath. Due to a lack of proper and timely care, certain chronic diseases such as diabetes, chronic renal failure, etc., can worsen, causing bad breath. Diabetes is a common lifestyle disease that is present in a sizable amount of population, and because of the untimely medical intervention of such patients, the disease may worsen, resulting in halitosis such as acetone breath as noticed in hyperglycemia.
4) Dry mouth or Xerostomia:
It occurs due to anxiety and panic from uncertainty due to COVID-19. Patients with some medical conditions can develop it due to a lack of medical attention and worsening of the disease from stress. It is commonly observed that panic results in dryness of the mouth. In diabetes, there is a loss of a large amount of water in urine known as polyuria, which can also result in dryness of the mouth.
5) Mouth Ulcers:
It is again caused due to stress in lockdown from various issues such as loss of job and livelihood. It can also be due to pressure from family conflicts. Multiple studies have shown that gender violence has increased during the lockdown. All these factors collectively result in stress, which may cause ulcerations in the oral cavity.
6) Gum Bleeding:
It occurs because of inflammation of gums due to calculus and plaque deposition from lack of oral hygiene and improper brushing. During the lockdown, people suffering from anxiety can develop hypertension causing bleeding from gums. With the absence of dental care, such conditions worsen.
7) Jaw Fatigue:
Some patients in stress develop jaw fatigue or pain. This occurs due to the stiffness of the jaw muscles. In dentistry, one of the main causes of jaw pain or fatigue is myofascial pain dysfunction syndrome involving the temporomandibular joint and associated muscular apparatus. A large number of patients with this condition have a history of anxiety and stress. Lockdown has already generated psychiatric issues, which may also affect temporomandibular joint causing fatigue or pain in jaws.
As we know, there is no better way to control the pathologies or problems than prevention. During the lockdown, it is becoming difficult to access doctors due to the closure of major private clinics and hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. So under such conditions, it becomes more important that people follow preventive measures like a holy code to prevent themselves from developing any dental health problem. It would also prevent one from unnecessary exposure due to visiting a hospital, where chances of infection transmission are high. The various preventive measures that can prove helpful during this crisis are:
Reduce the consumption of sugar-rich foods in your diet.
Take fiber-based foods.
If you are taking meat, make sure it is cooked sufficiently to avoid it from being stuck to your teeth.
Reduce the consumption of sugary beverages and drinks.
Do not frequently snack between meals and avoid fast foods.
Make sure you rinse your mouth after taking foods and other liquid beverages.
Never attempt to bite hard objects with teeth.
Take adequate water to prevent dryness of the mouth.
Make sure that you brush your teeth before you go to bed.
Do light exercises daily to prevent constipation.
Engage with friends and family through text messages. Stay in touch with them to avoid detachment that can result in anxiety.
Do meditation if you believe in it. It relieves stress.
Avoid watching unnecessary news that is based on rumor and panic.
Keep yourself busy in any productive activity, such as gardening, painting, watching entertainment shows, reading, and cooking. It will also relieve stress.
Consume a low-salt diet to reduce the tendency for high blood pressure.
Try lukewarm saltwater gargles if you are not hypertensive.
Stay in touch with the official bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other government-run media bulletins. In case of any dental health issue, try to contact registered and skilled dental doctors through the teleconsultation facility first. Get advice from doctors and act accordingly.
Prevention is always better than cure. Follow these protocols and stay healthy!
Last reviewed at:
13 May 2020 - 4 min read
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