The Coronavirus pandemic has reinforced the need to ensure a healthy lifestyle and concentrate on prevention of diseases that play a pivotal role in the health of an individual. However, while ensuring a proper diet, regular exercise and mental health have all been talked about, but one area that seems to have been neglected is oral health, which should not be the case. A number of problems in the body manifest or can be traced down to poor dental hygiene which can be a big problem in the long run. And with frequent restrictions being put in place to tackle the pandemic, which often result in either cancellation or a delay in regular appointments with the dentist, people should be taking special care of their oral health.
To better understand the importance of oral health and what steps individuals should be taking to maintain it, Dr (Hony.) Brig. Anil Kohli, recipient of the Padam Shri, Padma Bhushan and Dr B C Roy Award, shares his valuable insights. To begin with, Brig. Kohli stresses upon the importance of oral health, saying that prevention is better than cure, therefore stressing that precautions should be taken. “Follow the routine dental care at home like – Brushing twice daily, using mouthwash and flossing,” he says. And when it comes to individuals who have tested positive for the Coronavirus, these precautions become even more important. Brig. Kohli says that “If the patient has been infected with the Coronavirus, then post recovery it is advisable to discard the old toothbrush and use a new one. One must regularly disinfect the toothbrush by first disinfecting the handle with 70% alcohol for one minute and then immersing the bristles in ethanol and oil based mouthwash solutions for 20 minutes. One can opt for tele-dentistry and have online consultation with the dentist. The doctor will let you know whether you can delay the visit and also tell you the appropriate measures one can take while at home”.
Patients should also take special care when dealing with the virus at home, “Good oral hygiene is not only important for healthy teeth and gums but also for the overall well being of an individual. Failing at which increases bacterial levels in the oral cavity that can increase the chances of having heart and lung diseases. Thus it is necessary for the infected person to have good oral health to decrease the severity of the symptoms,” says Brig. Kohli.
Beyond the immediate impact of the pandemic on dental health, there are signs that are often overlooked but can turn into bigger problems when it comes to oral hygiene as well. “Like any other systemic disease, Covid-19 and oral health are interlinked. Not only does the severity of Covid-19 increase in patients with poor oral health, even the existing oral problems worsen in patients with Covid-19 infection. In both the cases, one has to be observant and vigilant and follow the progress of the symptoms. If one observes that the symptoms are worsening, one must contact the oral health care provider. Apart from taking the measures explained above for a good oral health care regime at home, a regular follow up post recovery is a must,” stresses Brig. Kohli.
And the special care does not end with individuals testing negative for the virus. Even after people are no longer infected, it is important to take special precautions to ensure that there is no lasting impact of the virus on the body. “A lot of things have changed post the starting of Covid-19 pandemic. It has reminded all of us about the pivotal role hygiene plays in prevention of most of the diseases. The focus has shifted from curing to prevention of the disease. Here are some of the measures one can adopt daily for good oral health –
- Brush twice daily
- Use of fluoride toothpaste
- Include flossing in daily routine
- Use of Mouthwash
- Drink water regularly
- Avoid sticky foods
- Regular dental visit every 6 months.
Though the pandemic is pressing down upon us all, altering the way we live and forcing us to accept the new normal where social distancing is the norm, there are certain emergencies when it comes to oral health that should on no account be ignored or medical attention delayed. Some of these emergencies that Brig. Kohli talks about, that require immediate medical attention include-
- Swelling of your gum, cheek or face which is increasing in size and spreading
- Excruciating pain resulting in lack of sleep
- Mouth ulcers not healing beyond 2 weeks
- Bleeding lasting for more than 20 minutes post extraction and can’t be stopped by biting on a hankie/gauze
- A broken tooth causing pain and damage to your cheek or tongue
- Controlled bleeding due to facial trauma
- Taking appropriate home care measures but still but the pain is getting worse
Apart from these, the frequency of fungal infections has increased remarkably during Covid-19. This can be attributed either to the immunodeficiency of viral infections or because of the use of immunosuppressive drugs to treat Covid-19. Also the increased tendency for dry mouth can alter the oral microbial flora, resulting in pathogenic fungal elements to grow. These oral fungal infections are associated not only with greater discomfort but also lead to destruction of tissues beyond repair if not diagnosed timely. The symptoms that the patient needs to look after carefully are – swelling or bleeding of the gums, pus discharge from the gums, white/yellow/black plaque areas on the tongue or any where in the mouth, sudden loosening of the teeth, pain or discomfort around the nose, eye or forehead that may resemble sinusitis pain. These symptoms need to be addressed as early as possible for better prognosis.
Despite the current constraints and changes in the way we approach and tackle health related problems, as Brig. Kohli says for oral health, prevention is better than cure, there are some home remedies and precautions that every individual should be taking note of to prevent a last minute dash to the doctor. The foremost measure one must take says Brig. Kohli “is brushing twice daily. Including use of mouthwash, fluoridated toothpaste and floss in daily practice can help prevent a lot of dental problems. One must avoid sticky foods and keep one hydrated to prevent dental caries”.