OLATHE, Kan. — It’s been two years since the start of the pandemic and nationwide dentists are reporting an increase in stress-related oral health conditions among patients.
A recent survey conducted by the American Dental Association revealed nearly 70% of dentists have seen an increase in oral health issues related to COVID-19, like teeth grinding, clenching and jaw pain.
Dr. John Flaes with Fales Pediatric Dentistry is one of the many dentists noticing these changes. Dr. Fales said among his young patients he’s noticing a rise in tooth decay.
“In my career, I’ve never seen a sudden change like we’ve seen because of Covid. Tooth decay, I believe, had been on a downward trend,” Fales said.
Fales said at the beginning of the pandemic, appointments were down at his office, which took a toll on preventative care. He believes changes children saw in their usual routines, because of lock downs and stay at home orders, also impacted their teeth cleaning routines.
“During Covid, they’re getting up, we’re doing zoom classes or were wearing masks all the time, parents couldn’t see their teeth and all that food debris and bacteria was allowed to sit on the mask,” Fales said. “My evidence for that is when you look at the inside of masks when kids take them off for us to look at their teeth….the masks aren’t clean.”
Fails said tooth decay is serious condition that should be treated right away and is the number one childhood disease. If led untreated it can lead to infections and on rare occasions can lead to death.
“We have been doing a great job in dentistry of educating, using fluorides or using calcium products to help with reversing decay,” Fales said. “But again, Covid is just a strange thing, I haven’t seen any research to back this up but I believe there’s been a huge uptick.”
For parents concerned about their child’s well-being, start by making sure kids are brushing and cleaning their teeth every day, especially after meals. Try to go back to having scheduled meals, instead of letting kids graze and check in with a pediatric dentist every six months.
“Decay is a progressive disease, it starts and it never goes backwards, so unlike the cold, you can get better with tooth decay but once you have it, you have it so it has to be restored,” Fales said.
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