by: David Trent, M.D., D.D.S., Chief Medical Officer
We’re calling them “covidies.” It sounds cute, but it’s really not. New numbers show our dental teams at Kids Care are seeing an increase in the number of dental caries, or cavities, and COVID-19 appears to be the primary cause.
During the last year, about 80% of Americans have put off at least one medical service because of the pandemic. A dental exam or cleaning tops the list of postponed treatments, according to a recent TIME-Harris poll. So, if you’ve delayed a dental visit, you’re not alone. The coronavirus has caused a lot of us to hunker down and limit contact with everyone and everything.
Just because we have “stopped,” however, doesn’t mean the need for health care has. Cavities actually can worsen significantly over time, and tooth decay is irreversible. If a patient does not receive timely treatment for a cavity, s/he may require more extensive procedures such as a crown, root canal, or even tooth removal. This process is more likely in children than in adults. In primary (baby) teeth the protective outer layer of tooth enamel is thinner and the nerve center larger, allowing cavities to reach the center of the tooth much more quickly in a child. COVID-19 has wreaked major havoc in a lot of small mouths.
The pandemic has also caused our children to be out of school, which has led to a jump in “grazing,” or continuous snacking. While it can be good to eat several small meals throughout the day, constant eating and/or drinking actually hurts your child’s teeth. Every food with a fermentable sugar (yogurt, juice, milk, crackers) creates a kind of acid attack in your mouth. It takes about 15 minutes for our saliva to naturally control the acidity, but if you keep snacking, the attack on your teeth doesn’t stop. Constant snacking is a major threat for optimal health. Beside increasing the potential for excessive weight gain, we can actually witness our dietary habits fueling tooth decay.
Some dentists have expressed concern that wearing a mask may also be causing more trouble for your child’s mouth. We know that a “dry mouth” can cause decay. There is a chance that if your child is wearing a mask for an extended period of time (like s/he is supposed to), they will be less likely to drink water. Dehydration promotes a dry mouth. Some children also find it difficult to breathe through their nose while wearing a mask and then resort to breathing through their mouths. Mouth breathing can also cause dry mouth, which in turn, causes cavities.
So, what can you do to help combat the “covidies?”
The most important thing: schedule an appointment for your child to visit one of our Kids Care locations.
Kids Care locations are safe. Since May of 2020, more than 300,000 people have visited our offices for more than 170,000 treatments and/or examinations with zero cases of COVID transmission between patients and the care team. Dental offices have long-held protocols to protect against infection, and the pandemic has highlighted just how important these existing safety precautions are. At Kids Care, we practice a variety of protections such as surface disinfection, instrument sterilization, as well as some newer technologies, such as our “air scrubber” that removes 99.9% of bacteria and viruses from the air. We have disposable barriers and water-line disinfection. Our staff wears personal protective equipment (PPE), and we have glass partitions between open bay chairs. We have modified the layout of our waiting rooms, and we conduct daily wellness checks on all our staff and patients before their appointments.
Kids Care cares – about your children and about the health and safety of all our patients, staff, and the community. We are committed to doing our part to send COVID-19 packing.