Brushing and flossing are paramount during the COVID-19 outbreak. Yes, we are telling you that oral hygiene should be a priority during a pandemic. Why? Because when you don’t floss and brush, tartar, and harmful bacteria build up. The bacteria can cause infection or gum and bone disease (gingivitis and periodontal disease). This low-grade infection weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to catching viruses.
Top 10 Things Dentists Want You To Do For Your Health During The Pandemic:
1. Wash your hands!
Wash them with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before brushing, flossing and eating. Wash them after using the bathroom, going to a public place, blowing your nose, coughing, and sneezing. Washing is preferred over hand sanitizer because the friction from scrubbing with soap and water can break open the coronavirus’s protective envelope, making the virus inoperable. The soap then surrounds the virus so when you rinse your hands, the damaged virus is washed away. Done and done!
2. Use hand sanitizer… but only if soap and water are not available.
The sanitizer must contain at least 60% alcohol and your hands should not be dry until you’ve completed at least 20 seconds of rubbing. Soap is preferable over sanitizer because, while they both kill the virus, sanitizer does not remove it from the skin. (Note: neither soap nor sanitizer kill many bacteria and viruses, such as those that cause meningitis, pneumonia, and the common cold, but the vigorous scrubbing with soap and water removes them from the skin, making this method preferable over using sanitizer).
3. Brush twice a day for two minutes each time
Wash your hands before AND after. If the virus is on your hands, you don’t want to catch it when you touch your mouth, and if you have the virus and touch your mouth, no one wants to catch it from you! Brushing properly with a soft toothbrush in a small circular motion or, preferably, with an electric toothbrush such as the Sonicare Flexcare+, removes the plaque and tartar that cause inflammation and low-grade infection. And if you are sick, don’t forget to change your toothbrush head and toothpaste when you’re better.
4. Floss once a day – at night!
Flossing at night will remove all of the remaining food that sits between your teeth from the meals you consumed that day. If you wait until the morning to floss, the food sits – and the bacteria grows. And don’t forget – wash your hands before AND after flossing… see the trend?
5. Use mouthwash
Unfortunately, salt water, over-the-counter mouth rinses, and even prescription chlorohexidine have been deemed ineffective in killing the coronavirus. The only thing that the American Dental Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend to destroy the virus is a hydrogen peroxide rinse, such as Peroxyl by Colgate or Listerine Whitening Mouthrinse. Swish for 60 seconds and spit. (Note: over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide is too concentrated to use directly in the mouth.)
Cover your coughs and sneezes, and not with the hands that are going to touch your phone, your food, the door handle, the refrigerator, the coffee pot, the hair brush… Make sure you wash your laundry with hot water and a bleach compound (preferably) and give it some extra time in a hot dryer. The coronavirus can live on clothes for up to 9 days!
7. Do not touch your face mask!
Wearing a face mask actually causes you to touch your face more than you normally would without one, thereby increasing your chances of getting sick. To avoid this, make sure your mask is secure, your hands are clean before removing your mask, and you remove it by grabbing the ear-loops or the back of the mask.
8. If you are sick, stay hydrated – with WATER!
Gatorade, sodas and other delicious beverages contain sugar and/or acid that are detrimental to your teeth AND gastrointestinal tract, which is the tract that leads to overall health. A damaged GI tract can lead to nutritional deficiencies, leaky gut syndrome, and associated autoimmune diseases.
9. Flatten the curve, practice social distancing, quarantine yourself
Whatever term you prefer to use, avoid close contact with others! The virus has mutated more than once, which is why we cannot build an immunity to it and why it’s twice as hard to develop a vaccine against it. The only way to stop this pandemic is to stay home and stay away from others. And friends, “kind of” and “mostly” social distancing, is NOT social distancing. You, yourself, may not get sick, but you could unknowingly pass the virus to someone whose body is not strong enough to fight it.
10. Be kind to yourself
As dental healthcare providers, our goal is not just to get your teeth healthy. Our goal is to get YOU healthy. The look and function of teeth play an important part in your mental health, which is a huge part of overall health and extremely important to us as doctors. So, during this time when you may feel physically isolated, take care of yourself. Get outside, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, eat healthy, and stay connected with loved ones virtually. Be kind to yourself, and do things that make you happy. We will all get through this together.