FACTS FOR FAMILIES: Dental health impacted by COVID-19 | Health, Medicine and Fitness


This article was written by Danny Vogwill, an Interdisciplinary Health Sciences student at UIUC. Danny says: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world, ushering in an era of working from home, vaccination protocols, social distancing, and countless other ways in our daily lives. But what if I told you that your dental health was also at risk during the pandemic.

In 2020, the Center for Disease Control released a statement: “The populations most at risk for many chronic diseases are similar to those most at risk for developing oral disease.” This increased risk, along with nationwide closures of many dental practices, has created an incredibly dangerous combination that has left the oral health of many Americans by the wayside.

Regular dental cleanings and hygiene checks are recommended every six months. These aggravating factors may explain why people’s oral health has declined, with some people saying they have not been to the dentist for three years due to the pandemic.

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The transmissibility of COVID-19 was early in the pandemic that made people unwilling to attend non-essential medical checkups, and with oral health, the idea of ​​having someone in such close proximity to your mouth open was a clear violation of COVID -19 safety protocol. As these mandates and procedures began to ease, people were still hesitant to make an appointment with a dentist, as cases kept cropping up from time to time.

Another factor that could be at play is the high cost of dental care. At the start of the pandemic, a 2020 report from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics stated: “Of the 16.9 million unemployed in July, 9.6 million (57%) were unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic.”

With much of the population unemployed, most Americans use their employer’s health insurance plans to cover dental costs. If they are no longer employed, they can opt for COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. COBRA allows the individual to have the ability to continue to pay for their insurance plan, but it usually costs more since you cover the entire cost of insurance.

The Surgeon General of the United States mentioned that oral health is essential to overall health and well-being, and this comes from the Oral Health Report done in 2000. The Second Oral Health Report -dental is currently in the works, and it will be interesting to see if the effects of the pandemic are also included in this report.

This says a lot that there have only ever been two reports on oral health by the Surgeon General and could demonstrate the importance of oral health to all Americans.

Dental practices reported seeing a decrease in visits due to the pandemic. A study by Meyers and Danesh (2021) stated, “During the pandemic, the rate of quarterly fluoride use decreased significantly during dental visits.”

The long-term effects of lack of dental health maintenance range from tooth decay to oral infections, and worse if left untreated. The British Dental Journal has found a link between poor oral hygiene and hyper-inflammation, leading to a higher risk of more serious COVID-19 infection. Their findings urged residents across the UK and around the world to reinvest in their oral health and make appointments with their dentist.

There is no need to panic because there are still things you can do to ensure that your oral health is not in danger. Be sure to call your dentist’s office and make an appointment, and there are options for those who still don’t feel comfortable in dental offices.

Telemedicine has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic for both physical and oral health. Individuals can opt for a virtual call with their dentist to perform supervised fluoride treatment and answer questions when in-person visits aren’t ideal.

We cannot forget our teeth as we think about getting back to full health. In 2020, the CDC stated, “The mouth is essential for eating, speaking, smiling, and quality of life. The most common oral conditions are dental caries and periodontal disease, and they are largely preventable.

As we continue to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, we can all contribute to our overall health and well-being by flossing and brushing our teeth twice a day and ensuring that that the next time you see the dentist, he will be captivated by your beautiful smile!

For more information about University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read more helpful articles, visit our website at https://extension.illinois.edu/ccdms, call us at 217-345-7034 or contact Cheri Burcham at [email protected] edu. Also visit the Family Files blog at https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/family-files.

Cheri Burcham is the Family Life Educator at U of I Extension.


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