The pandemic has disrupted so much of our normal lives. With all of the stress and new facts of daily living, our dental health is suffering.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 as mentioned by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to look out for include, fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body ache, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. It’s important to note that there are no mouth manifestations included in the list of possible COVID-19 symptoms.

Below, we discuss some of the ways that the pandemic can impact your mouth health — even when you aren’t sick. While these conditions aren’t always caused by COVID-19, the added stress, precautions, and masks do have other effects. It is important to follow all  guidelines for keeping safe and slowing the spread of the virus, and so we’ve also added some tips to counteract common issues while still doing your part.

1. Fewer Trips to the Dentist

Over the past year, many dentists have experienced a drop off in regular cleanings. Patients are nervous about the virus and choose to stay home. That means many people have missed one or two cleanings, but there is good news to report.

Dental practices such as the Beacon Dental Clinic have risen to the challenge, following extensive new guidelines that radically reduce the risk of transmission from a visit to the dentist. These measures protect patients, hygienists, and dentists.

The Beacon Dental Clinic have installed Radic8 air systems in all our patient treatment rooms, enhanced our standard PPE and continue our patient pre-screening programme, which we commenced in early March 2020 to ensure the ongoing safety of all our patients and staff. We would like to firmly assure all our patients the Beacon Dental Clinic will continue to operate at the highest levels of infection prevention and control in line with our well-established Dental Care Service Delivery Standards, during this Level Five period.

2. Xerostomia (“Dry Mouth”)

Ever since the pandemic broke, wearing masks has been mandatory in many areas. While this is an important and vital step in slowing the transmission of the virus, it has led many individuals to breathe from their mouths rather than their noses. On top of that, it has also made frequent hydration difficult. Both can lead to dry mouth.

What’s the big deal with dry mouth? It could lead to an increase in tooth decay and fungal infection in the oral cavity. That’s why it should not be taken lightly. But there are some easy strategies you can use to combat it.

Make sure to continue breathing regularly through your nose when wearing a mask and stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids before and after you leave your house or car can make a big difference.

3. Loss of Taste and Smell

Loss of taste (ageusia) and loss of smell (anosmia) are often some of the most prevalent and earliest reported symptoms with COVID-19 cases. Although the mechanism by which this occurs is not fully understood, scientists suspect that the virus has the ability to affect the neurons responsible for smell and impact the tongue surface where the taste buds are located.

As a result, this situation creates a disturbance in the smell receptors. A COVID-19 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine this January reported that 80% of patients had such symptoms.

If you experience a loss of taste or smell, follow the recommended guidelines as it may be a sign of COVID-19 infection.

4. Teeth Grinding and Jaw Pain

Recently, dentists have reported a surge in the number of patients with excessive teeth clenching and jaw pain, as well as teeth grinding at night (bruxism). It is noted that psychological stress and anxiety have spiked during this period, so did the stress-related grinding of teeth.

A study published on the 12th of October 2020 by the Journal of Clinical Medicine, reported that bruxism at night as well as orofacial pain cases rose by 15%-36%.

Luckily, there is protective oral appliance provision of several variations of customized protective dental appliances to control the effects of excessive Sleep Bruxism are available.

Also please note exercise can also help reduce stress. If you are struggling with symptoms of stress, seek help from a mental health professional.

The Bottom Line

The pandemic is difficult in many ways. But there is some good news to note. Dental clinics such as the Beacon Dental clinic are still available to support you with these issues in a safe and protected environment and with the increase in vaccinations, a return to a less worrying experience of going to your dental appointments is just around the corner.