By: C. Eve J Kimball, MD, FAAP & Anupama Rao Tate, DMD, MPHB
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant delays in dental care for many families. Children whose dental problems might have been easily taken care of in an office setting may have had to wait to see a dentist. And since teeth don't get better on their own, those problems just get worse and need even more treatment.
Taking a little time at home to practice good dental habits is a great way to protect your child's teeth during the pandemic and every day.
Why good oral health is important during Covid-19
Tooth decay in the form of
cavities (also called caries) is the most common disease of childhood. It is mostly preventable. But once tooth decay begins, it will get worse—even in
babies. Dentists were not able to see patients at the beginning of the pandemic except for emergencies. As they begin re-opening with new schedules, it may be more difficult to get an appointment. If you need help finding a dentist, talk to your pediatrician.
How to help prevent dental problems during the pandemic:
Brush teeth regularly. Help your children
brush their teeth two times a day for two minutes each time. Use
toothpaste with fluoride.
Offer fluoridated water. Offer your child plain
milk with meals and
fluoridated water in between. Avoid
juice, especially in sippy cups.
Avoid sugary foods and junk food. Diet affects dental health. The longer and more frequently your child's teeth are exposed to sugar and other foods that stick in the teeth (like chips, cookies, and crackers), the greater the risk of cavities.
Dental checkups. Situations vary from state to state as dental offices begin to reopen. However, they are following
OSHA recommendations to make sure patients and dental team members stay safe. Call your dentist to learn about their new procedures for seeing patients before scheduling a visit.
See your pediatrician
When you visit your pediatrician for a
checkup or even a sick visit, ask about how best to take care of your children's teeth. At in-person visits, your pediatrician may apply
fluoride varnish to protect your child's teeth.
If you are not able to visit the office, your pediatrician may be able to offer a telehealth visit to “look" at your child's mouth and teeth using photos or video. Depending on what is seen, you may need to take your child to a dentist.
Talk with your pediatrician about making a "dental home"—a dentist who can give ongoing, high-quality professional care—just as you have a "medical home" with your pediatrician. As dental offices continue to open in many communities, you can return to regular dental visits to keep your child's dental health on track.
About Dr. Kimball
C. Eve J Kimball, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician in Silver Spring, MD, founded All About Children Pediatric Partners, PC in West Reading PA. She is an AAP Section on Oral Health Executive Committee Member. She was the 2009 Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Pediatrician of the Year and received its 2016 Oral Health Advocacy Award.
About Dr. Tate
Anupama Rao Tate, DMD, MPH, an executive committee member of the Section on Oral Health to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is an associate professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine. She is also a faculty member in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry in the Goldberg Center for Community Pediatric Health at Children's National Medical Center, where she serves as director of Advocacy and Research. Dr. Tate is co-director of the District of Columbia Pediatric Oral Health Coalition and a trustee to the Board of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.