The COVID-19 pandemic has meant delays in dental care for many families. Children whose dental problems might have been easily taken care of in an office setting may have had to wait to see a dentist. And since teeth don’t get better on their own, those problems just get worse and need even more treatment.

Why good oral health is important during Covid-19

Tooth decay in the form of cavities (also called caries) is the most common disease of childhood. It is mostly preventable. But once tooth decay begins, it will get worse – even in babies. Dentists were not able to see patients at the beginning of the pandemic except for emergencies. When they began re-opening with new schedules, it may have become more difficult to get an appointment. However, if there is a concern, please seek the counsel of your family physician, paediatrician or dentist.

Oral Health Challenges for Children with Disabilities

– Children with physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, may not have the motor skills needed to use a toothbrush safely or to sit still in a dental chair during dental visits.

– Children with communication disorders, such as delayed speech and language development, may not be able to tell their parents that their mouth hurts or they have a toothache.

– Children who get frequent medical care, such as having many doctor visits or hospital stays, may be afraid of the dental office and may not cooperate during visits.

– Children who take medicines with added sugars or those that cause dry mouth are at high risk for tooth decay. Sugar is added to some medicines to make them taste better. Other medicines used to treat cerebral palsy, seizures and depression can cause dry mouth by lowering the amount of saliva in the mouth. Saliva plays an important role in preventing tooth decay. Medicines given to children with medical diseases or disorders, such as asthma or allergies, can also cause dry mouth.

– Children on special diets may be at high risk for developing tooth decay. Foods that are soft or high in starch (for example, potatoes or corn) stick to children’s teeth and give caries-causing bacteria in the mouth more time to cause tooth decay.

The challenge of “Dental Dread” – It’s treatable!

If an upcoming dentist visit makes you nervous, you are not alone. For one in 10 people, the fear is so intense that they avoid going, according to research. “That really backfires, because people put it off for so long that they end up needing all sorts of painful procedures,” says Mark Wolff, DDS, New York University College of Dentistry. Believe it or not, seeing a therapist can help: A 2018 study published in the British Dental Journal found that 79% of severely anxious patients who attended an average of five sessions with a therapist were able to undergo dental treatment without sedation.

Another option? Bring earphones. Listening to your own soothing music will help you relax, says Dr Wolff. And make sure you inform your dentist you are nervous so he/she can work with you. “If they are not sympathetic,” says Dr Wolff, “you need to find another dentist.”

Know what foods can harm your teeth

Mashed potatoes: Foods filled with starch stick to your teeth. Potato chips, which tend to get trapped in your teeth, aren’t great either. Try to floss after you eat to remove food particles.

Dried fruit: It’s sticky and high in sugar, which translates to cavities. The best option: raisins, because they suppress the growth of some mouth bacteria, says research.

Ice: Chewing on hard substances can damage enamel, per the American Dental Association. For the sake of your teeth, cool off with a tall glass of lukewarm water instead.

Diet soda: It’s just as hard on your teeth as regular soda, according to a 2018 British Dental Journal. These drinks often contain phosphoric and citric acids, which can strip away enamel.

Taking a little time at home to practice good dental habits is a great way to protect your child’s teeth during the pandemic and every day.

How to help prevent dental problems during the pandemic:

1. Brush teeth regularly. Help your children brush their teeth two times a day for two minutes each time. Use toothpaste with fluoride.

2. Avoid sugary foods and junk food. Diet affects dental health. The longer and more frequently your child’s teeth are exposed to sugar ​and other foods that stick in the teeth (like chips, cookies, and crackers), the greater the risk of cavities.

3. Dental checkups. Situations may vary from dentist to dentist but guidelines from CDC help ensure patients and dental team members stay safe. Contact your dentist to be updated on their new procedures for seeing patients before scheduling a visit.