4 Ways Quarantine is Leading to Tooth Decay in Children

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We are now a full year into the coronavirus pandemic and your teeth are paying for it. Research shows that a sizeable amount of parents in America have put off treatment at a dentist, not only for themselves but also for their children, and the result is a rapid increase in tooth decay in children.  

“At the beginning of the pandemic, it was understandable that parents may have wanted to keep their kids at home and away from public places,” said Dr. Lela Farmer of Scuba Smiles For Kids in North Central San Antonio. “But waiting a full year to see a dentist can cause more harm than good– not just for tooth health, but also overall health, because the health of your mouth is inextricably linked to the rest of your body.” So what is causing this terrible turn in tooth decay?

#1 Poor quarantine dietary habits are partially to blame

Dentists are seeing more tooth decay because of poor dietary habits. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry cites a larger risk of dental complications in children because tooth enamel is thinner. “Parents are doing whatever they can to keep kids occupied during these tough times, and often that means feeding them sugary treats,” said Dr. Farmer. Dr. Farmer recommends giving your children more snacks of fresh fruits and vegetables instead of chips and candy. You can even make snacking a fun activity, by using cookie cutters and creating fun shapes out of apples, pears, bananas, or any fruit your child enjoys. If you must give them a sugary snack, be sure they are drinking water after they eat to wash as much of the sugar off of the teeth as possible. 

#2 Know the warning signs of a cavity

With some families putting off the recommended, twice-a-year check-up for their children because of the pandemic, it is even more important to know the signs of a cavity, so it doesn’t turn into something worse. Without that bi-annual visit to a dentist, your child may not know they have a cavity until their teeth begin to feel sensitive or the teeth start to ache. By that point, the decay may have progressed to the point of an infection or even an abscess. “If your child is experiencing any symptoms of pain, it is of the utmost importance to get your child to a dentist,” said Dr. Farmer. Delaying a visit could result in extreme pain, loss of a tooth, or even hospitalization. 

#3 Even children get stressed…which leads to grinding

We know the pandemic is causing stress among adults, but children are not immune. Stress can result in grinding of the teeth, otherwise known as bruxism. “Some of the signs to look out for are headaches, jaw pain, and if it becomes severe enough, broken or cracked teeth,” says Dr. Farmer. Before their bedtime, make sure your child is relaxed. Read them a book or take part in an activity that puts their mind at ease. You may also want to ask your dentist to evaluate their mouth and airway to make sure they are getting quality sleep and that there is no lasting damage to the permanent teeth. 

#4 If you’re still fearful of the dentist, do your best at home 

Even after a year, if you still have anxiety about bringing your child to a dentist, make sure you keep up with the hygiene of their teeth with proper home care. According to Healthline, you’ve got to take care of their toothbrush, and make sure it isn’t past it’s time of use. That’s because a toothbrush is just one way viruses can be transmitted. 

“If the bristles are worn down make sure your child gets a new toothbrush. Preferably one with soft bristles so they don’t ‘saw’ away at the gums,” said Dr. Farmer. Also make sure they are brushing at least twice a day for two minutes, and flossing at least once a day, preferably before bedtime. 

Bottom line parents: we strongly recommend that you bring your child to a dentist just as often as you did before the coronavirus pandemic. Dentists are taking extra precautions to make sure their patients are as safe as possible in the office. Our infection control at Scuba Smiles is more stringent that ever. The longer you put off that visit, the more you risk the health of your child’s teeth and their overall health.