The Pandemic and Your Teeth

Post by: Gerarda on 28 Oct 2020

We have noticed a marked increase in broken teeth and sore jaws with TMJ (temporomandibular joint) problems since the pandemic of COVID-19 started and people were in lockdown; enough to warrant more than a passing thought. The need for mouth guards to prevent people from grinding and clenching their teeth is correspondingly up.

The Spanish Dental Association (Ilustre Colegio Oficial de Dentistas de Málaga, COEMA) hasn’t done a survey to verify this increase in dental problems since the pandemic started, but reports from colleagues of pandemic-related dental problems are common says Dr. Mikael Kahn. Mikael says, “Bacteria doesn’t take a break, nor does it know there is pandemic! One can postpone dental treatment for a while, but sooner or later it gets to a point where one can´t put it off any more.”

The combination of being in lockdown and therefore, delaying treatment, the stress of being without a job or wondering how one will pay one’s rent, or the fact that one has adverse working conditions, has caused the problems of broken teeth and sore jaws.

We are seeing the amount of stress people are under, having a severe impact on their teeth because of clenching and grinding. This in turn has created problems with their jaw and TMJ. Additionally, with people working from home more often than not they don’t have appropriate chairs to sit in for long periods of time and therefore, are hunched over at their computers. This in turn can increase grinding (bruxism).

In addition to stress and delayed care, we are seeing more cavities as people are snacking more because they are working from home and have ready access to foods that they would not ordinarily have at work. Consequently, people are also brushing less frequently. When people get out of their routines, many times the oral hygiene follows suit.

Having reviewed our records from the same period as last year from June to October, we have seen a 54% increase in the need for mouth guards, 87% increase in broken teeth treated either by composite repair or crowns and a 12% increase in treatment for cavities.

While we can´t say definitively that these statistics are a direct result of the lockdown we experienced in the spring, we can say that we have treated more broken teeth and TMJ problems than ever before during the same period.

1. Broken front teeth from diving into a pool or from falling down
Remember while it might be irritating and unattractive, a broken tooth is usually not life-threatening. Depending on how much of your tooth is broken and the angle it is broken at, the treatment could range from doing a composite repair for a chipped tooth to doing a root canal treatment and a crown if the tooth is broken off at the margin of the gum. If the tooth is chipped then schedule an appointment at your convenience; if however, the tooth has broken off or you have pain then see a dentist immediately.

2. Tooth pain
Usually a dental emergency will have a degree of pain attached. It just depends on the level of pain and the kind of pain how your dentist deals with it. If it is sensitive to both cold and hot temperatures, chances are it is a grinding problem. If it is only sensitive to cold, many times, but not always, it could be a nerve problem. It could be that the nerve has been irritated and is crying out for attention. If that is the case you need to call your dentist immediately. It doesn´t get better by itself. If it hurts when you bite down, it could be a broken tooth, it could also mean that you have been grinding your teeth or it could be a sign that you have an abscess. Either way, you need to have it treated by a dentist.

3. You´ve knocked out your tooth
If for whatever reason your tooth gets knocked out, put it back in. Yes put it back in the socket. And hold it there until you see a dentist. Make sure though when you pick it up you only touch the crown of the tooth, the part that is used to chew and not the root. Also important is to put it back in the correct position. If there is any debris on the tooth when you pick it up rinse it in a cup of lukewarm tap water for no more than 10 seconds. Any longer than that can kill the cells on the root surface that help reattach it. If you are looking at your tooth between your fingers then most probably you´re in shock, but if you want to save the tooth then you have to remain calm and think. If you can´t put it back correctly, then put it in a glass of milk. If milk is not an option, then put it in your mouth between the cheek and the gum to keep it moist. Do not swallow it as you only have about 2 hours for it to be reimplanted correctly. The sooner the better, otherwise, the likelihood of success becomes less. You need to make a very quick trip to a dentist.

For most dental emergencies you need to go to a dental clinic not a hospital. Hospitals rarely have a dental department and if they do it is even rarer that there would be someone on call. A doctor in an emergency room can only give you pain medication or antibiotics. In some cases, they will schedule an x-ray or scan depending on the severity of the trauma. They will still suggest you see your dentist.

Tooth Enamel and Erosion

Post by: Gerarda on 08 Aug 2019

What is tooth enamel?
Tooth enamel is that hard, shiny layer of material which protects your teeth against decay. It is the layer of material that you are to brush and floss on a daily basis. To be more precise, it is hydroxyapatite, a translucent calcium phosphate. Suffice it to say enamel is the hardest mineral element in your body, even harder than bone. Don´t be fooled though as it still can be damaged.

What causes enamel to be damaged or eroded?
• Poor oral hygiene
• Acidic food & drinks (lemon juice, limes, grapefruits, grapes, pineapples, pomegranates, blueberries) to name a few
• Soft drinks in excess
• High sugar and starch diet
• Teeth grinding – wears away the enamel and leaves the dentin exposed
• Medications (antihistamines, decongestants, high blood pressure medications (including diuretics & calcium channel blockers), antidepressants, sedatives, pain medications, antacids
• Dry mouth – xerostomia, where the saliva glands don´t make enough saliva to keep the mouth wet. Many times this is a side effect of medication or radiation therapy.
• Acid reflux that occurs more than a couple of times a week
• Gastrointestinal problems – repeated vomiting from GI problems or eating disorders

What does tooth erosion look or feel like?
When your teeth become rough and irregular, or serrated like a saw blade you know the enamel has eroded. Essentially you reshape your teeth. You can experience sever sensitivity to both cold and hot temperatures and to sweets. You can also feel a shooting pain through one or more teeth so much so that it makes your eyes squint.

Can tooth erosion be repaired?
Once tooth enamel is gone, it´s gone. Teeth need to be rebuilt with composite restorations, crowns or veneers. The advantage of composite restorations is that it is a comparatively inexpensive and a conservative way to restore teeth. The result is immediate. More extensively damaged teeth might necessitate a porcelain veneer or porcelain crown.

You only get one set of permanent teeth; therefore, you might as well look after them. They are not meant to bite off thread or to open a bottle cap in a pinch. Your teeth need to be healthy as they not only serve to make us look good, but they also aid in digestion. As your mouth is the beginning of the digestive system it stands to reason that if you have digestive problems then you look to the overall health of your mouth as well as your stomach to determine the problem.

Begin by looking at your teeth and see whether any of the above symptoms are similar to yours. If they are then you know what to do. Call your dentist for a check-up.