TUCSON, Ariz. - The idea is simple: Once a year, you make a trip to the dentist. They clean your teeth, fill a cavity or two and you’re good to go for another 12 months. But dentists say, the COVID-19 pandemic has made a lot of people hesitant about those annual appointments.
"There is no environment more orally intimate than the dentist," says Dr. Michael Allen, Sabino Family Dentistry. "We're seeing an uptick in what I call 'Corona Cavities'."
Certainly not a board-certified term, but Dr. Allen says those 'Corona Cavities' are affecting patients he’s had for years who have never had oral issues.
"Maybe it's because they stayed home a lot more and they tend to snack all day long when they're home," says Dr. Allen. "Maybe they've gotten lazy and depressed. A lot of people are depressed right now. And so the last thing they want to do is floss and brush their teeth. Possibly it's because we're all wearing masks and it's drying our mouths out or something like that. And so we're not getting the normal cleansing."
Dentists also say this is especially concerning for older patients because the health of your mouth can have a trickle-down effect.
"They already might have some early gum disease or some advanced gum disease," says Dr. Allen. "That affects the rest of their body. It has implications in heart disease and diabetes and whatever else."
The good news, though, is that many practices out there are taking extra precautions to keep you safe.
"I’ll have a mask on. I'll have glasses, a shield. A gown to protect us, but also to protect the patients," says Dr. Allen. "We’re also using extra oral-suction devices so that anything that comes out of your mouth gets sucked into that. We're also making all patients rinse with an antiviral rinse before we even have them open their mouths."
But if you’re watching this and thinking “Ehh, I’m just not ready to venture out for a teeth cleaning quite yet”, dentists say watch your diet, pay attention to jaw clenching, and maybe most important, drink a ton of water; our teeth like a wet environment.
"They get brittle and it's easier for bacteria to penetrate if we don't have the normal flow of fluids around them," says Dr. Allen.
Ahhh, 2020. Who would have thought your average trip to the dentist could be impacted so much? But the more we know about our health going forward, the better the chances are we’ll be able to rebound back to normal.