Educating Children about Oral Health During COVID-19
At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we believe that most people don’t realize how poor oral hygiene and habits can increase the risk of COVID-19. The mouth includes complex microbial communities which maintain a delicate oral symbiotic balance. Poor oral hygiene disrupts this delicate balance which can increase the prevalence of pathogenic oral bacteria and lead to dysbiosis and other oral complications.
As parents, it is our duty to ensure our kids stay safe during the pandemic and one of the ways to do that is to educate them about oral health and teach them good oral habits. The guidelines for staying safe during the pandemic include frequently sanitizing your hands and washing them thoroughly for at least 20 seconds after your return home. It is also recommended that you avoid touching your face and mouth with dirty hands. Still, there are other ways you can contract the COVID-19 virus if you are not careful.
Why maintaining oral health is important during COVID-19
One of the viral target receptors of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus- 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors are present on the dorsal surface of the tongue, taste buds, and gingiva.
Thus, people who have been affected by the COVID-19 virus, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, carry the virus in their oral cavity since it acts as a major habitat. As a result, they unknowingly spread the virus via their saliva, tears, urine, stool, and blood. However, cleaning your mouth properly and taking precautions to keep your mouth clean can help reduce infection and cross-contamination. Good oral hygiene also helps to maintain an equilibrium of non-pathogenic microbes in the mouth which reduces the risk of infection through the nose and mouth.
How to maintain oral hygiene during COVID-19
There are several ways to maintain good oral hygiene but there are a few additional points that you have to keep in mind to maintain good oral health during a pandemic. Here are a few tips you can follow to maintain oral hygiene during the pandemic:
1. Replace, and disinfect your toothbrush more frequently – Generally, it is recommended that you replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months. However, experts recommend that you replace your manual toothbrush or the electric toothbrush head more frequently during the pandemic.
It is also important to disinfect the toothbrush each day before use since the coronavirus can remain on top of surfaces, including toothbrushes for up to 3 days. You can rinse your toothbrush with 0.5 percent hydrogen peroxide for up to 15 minutes to disinfect them daily.
However, if you want to stay extra safe, you can immerse the toothbrush in 2% sodium hypochlorite for 10 minutes or 10% PVI for 5 minutes, 0.12% CHX for 10–20 minutes, and % hydrogen peroxide for 30 min. Then, rinse the toothbrush with water thoroughly before using it to brush your teeth.
2. Store your toothbrush properly – Storing the toothbrushes in an upright position helps them to dry quickly and prevent the spread and growth of bacteria. It is also recommended you store the toothbrush in a safe place, away from the toothbrush of people who are infected by the COVID-19 virus.
3. Use effective mouthwash to rinse your mouth – It is not enough to use cosmetic mouthwashes that only help to keep your breath clean to maintain good oral hygiene, especially during the pandemic. The most effective mouthwashes with antibacterial and antiviral properties include chlorhexidine (CHX) and povidone-iodine (PVI) mouthwashes.
You can use a 1% PVI gargle for 15 seconds to reduce the viral load for 3 hours and 0.2% CHX to keep the mouth free of the virus for a shorter time.
4. Clean your tongue – While most people brush their teeth, they often tend to forget to keep their tongue clean. However, cleaning the tongue is equally essential to maintain good oral hygiene, especially during the pandemic since it is a major reservoir of the virus since it includes the SARS-CoV-2 target receptors.
Cleaning the tongue using a tongue scraper can remove the viral and bacterial biofilm on the tongue and help to improve taste perception.
5. Brush your teeth properly – Everybody knows the benefits of brushing their teeth but it is also important to learn the benefits of proper brushing practices. The recommended brushing method is to brush using a small circular motion for about 2 to 3 minutes and avoid using a sawing back-and-forth motion.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), it is better to brush your teeth using a soft-bristled toothbrush to prevent damaging the gums and enamel. Otherwise, it can lead to gum erosion and tooth sensitivity.
6. Floss your teeth at least once a day – Flossing is a beneficial habit since it helps to remove plaque and bacteria from between the teeth, where a toothbrush cannot reach them effectively. Removing stuck food particles and debris from between the teeth helps to reduce the risk of tooth decay and bad breath and allows you to maintain better dental hygiene.
7. Limit sugary food and starches – Consuming processed and packaged food products that include a lot of sugar and starches can lead to devastating oral health issues. That is why it is important to prevent your kids from consuming candy bars, chips, desserts, and other such food items.
Ideally, you would want to limit their sugar intake to below ten percent of their overall daily calorie intake. Also, ensure you restrict their consumption of sugary drinks.
At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we suggest you watch out for the common warning signs of poor oral health in your kids. These include mouth sores, bleeding gums, chronic bad breath, tooth decay, loose teeth, infection, jaw swelling, and more. Your goal as a parent should be to prevent these oral problems since preventive dental care is much better than restorative and emergency dental care. So, take your kids to the dentist every six months or so and follow the COVID-19 precautions to keep them protected and healthy.