Looking after your teeth during lockdown just got a lot easier with the help of these top tips
Local dentist Dr Matt Gilks has issued important advice on how to survive toothache, look after sensitive teeth and how to keep your mouth in great shape so you won't need a dentist at all.
In some extreme cases patients will be able to access urgent care but hopefully, with these tips, that won't be needed.
Since the end of March the NHS has advised dental practices to provide telephone advice only for dental problems.
According to Dr Matt, this is to limit the spread of coronavirus as nearly every dental procedure involves water spray which encourages the spread of the virus.
These droplets can stay in the air for several hours – making routine dental care impossible.
The NHS is setting up Urgent Dental Centres to provide emergency care for toothache that cannot be managed at home.
About half of these are up and running at the moment, but can only see a very limited number of patients per day.
In the mean time, this is the advice Dr Matt is offering to patients during the lockdown.
How to manage toothache in lockdown
You need urgent dental treatment if you have:
Facial swelling extending to eye or neck or floor of the mouth.
Bleeding following an extraction that does not stop after 20 mins of solid pressure with a gauze.
Bleeding due to trauma.
Severely broken tooth, or tooth fallen out with pain.
Toothache that is preventing sleep and eating, as well as swelling or fever that is not manageable with pain killers
You need to go straight to A&E if:
The area around your eye or neck is swollen.
You have a swelling in your mouth or neck which is making it difficult for you to breathe, swallow or speak.
Trauma causing loss of consciousness, double vision or vomiting.
Non-urgent dental care – will need to wait until your dentist re-opens
Loose or lost crowns, bridges or veneers.
Broken, rubbing or loose dentures.
Broken, loose or lost fillings.
Chipped teeth with no pain.
Loose orthodontic wires.
Managing dental pain at home
Take painkillers, like ibuprofen or paracetamol (children under 16 shouldn't take aspirin).
Avoid ibuprofen if you think you have, or have been diagnosed with coronavirus.
Try rinsing your mouth with salt water (children shouldn't try this).
Use a pain-relieving gel for your mouth – this can be bought from pharmacies or supermarkets.
Eat soft foods, like yoghurt or scrambled eggs, and try to avoid chewing with the sore tooth.
AVOID foods that are sweet, very hot or very cold
Brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes
You should brush your teeth last thing at night before you go to bed and on one other occasion, usually in the morning, with fluoride toothpaste.
Make sure that you are brushing your teeth and your gums, including all surfaces of your teeth.
Don’t rinse with water or mouthwash after brushing
This is a habit that is hard to break for a lot of people. After you have finished brushing, just spit out any excess toothpaste.
Don’t rinse with water or mouthwash as it’ll wash away the concentrated fluoride from the toothpaste.
The fluoride is absorbed by the teeth over a long period after brushing and the enamel of the teeth is strengthened by it, preventing decay in the future.
Clean in between your teeth with floss/ interdental brushes
Floss or use an interdental brush every day to remove food, debris and plaque lodged between your teeth.
The goal of flossing is to clean the surfaces of the teeth that your toothbrush can’t reach.
So ensure that whatever you are using touches the surface of the tooth to remove the plaque.
Interdental brushes may be easier to use and can be bent to get the right angulation for back teeth.
Don’t be put off by bleeding, it’s just your gums asking for more attention.
Healthy gums don’t bleed, keep using the brushes / floss and it’ll stop after a few days.
Reduce sugar, snacking, alcohol and smoking intake
This is probably the most tricky one during lockdown, as we spend more time in our homes and boredom often leads to snacking.
To protect your teeth from decay, you need to stick to 3 meals per day and 2 snacks.
When it comes to teeth, it’s not the quantity of sugar that causes dental problems, rather the frequency.
Smoking stains your teeth, causes bad breath and smokers are 4x more likely to loose teeth due to gum disease as well as other more serious health problems.
Alcohol is acidic and can cause erosion of enamel, as well as an increased risk of mouth cancer.
Wisdom tooth pain
Most flare ups can be managed with good home care.
Thorough cleaning (even if painful) with Corsodyl mouthwash, a soft diet and warm salty mouthwash should help.
Take painkillers to reduce the stress inside your mouth.
If you have difficulty swallowing or swelling in your cheek, you may need antibiotics. Call your dentist or NHS 111.
If you have sensitive teeth, apply sensodyne (or other fluoride toothpaste) directly on the affected teeth and do not rinse.
Most ulcers heal within 7-10 days. To ease the pain, try a warm salty mouthwash such as Difflam (Benzydamine) spray or mouthwash.
Thorough cleaning, even if painful, with Corsodyl mouthwash but do not use for longer than a week.
Again, a soft diet and painkillers will help as well.
Denture adhesives like Fixodent may help secure a loose denture. Sharp edges can be filed using an emery board.