Managing your oral health in normal times can be a challenge. During the COVID-19 pandemic, staying on top of your dental health while juggling other unplanned daily responsibilities can take a toll on your physical and mental health, too.
While it can all seem overwhelming, Elizabeth Gordon, an expanded practice dental hygienist with Delta Dental, says keeping up with your dental appointments can benefit your overall health.
"The integration of dental, medical and behavioral health is really important right now with COVID," said Gordon. "If you have any dental issues, missing your regular checkups can let those problems get out of control, which lowers your immune system. When you have a compromised immune system, it gives COVID or any other germs the opportunity they've been waiting for."
While the pandemic has impacted the dental industry, one way it has been able to keep up with the needs of patients is through teledentistry. For individuals who have concerns about visiting their dentist office, talking to a dental professional over the phone or by teleconference can help them get answers about oral care and how to safely maintain their dental health.
"If you do nothing else, you can at least have a virtual appointment," said Gordon. "It is so valuable to have someone, like a dental professional, that you feel safe talking to. If you are afraid to go in, Teledentistry makes it safe to talk about your oral care, get your questions answered without just being told to go to the dentist. Plus, it gives us a chance to hear what you're going through."
As the dental industry ramps back up to pre-pandemic operations, Gordon says offices are doing everything they can to ensure safe conditions for their patients.
"Appointments take more time because of the extra steps dentists have to take," she said. "Taking every patient's temperature, extra hand-cleanings, these extra safety measures have been put in place to create a safer environment for everyone."
Delta Dental provides other ways that Moda members can safely practice good oral health during the pandemic. The company's free online application, the Dental Optimizer, helps members understand what they can do to prevent dental disease and learn about the most effective treatments for managing their oral health.
Along with the ongoing challenges of staying safe, Gordon can't emphasize enough why going to the dentist is important to your overall health.
"As a dental hygienist, I'm really a proponent of going in every three months if you need to," she said. "If somebody has a history of periodontitis and there's already damage done, it's not going to get any better. Controlling gum disease can help manage other health conditions like diabetes."
She says seeing your dentist regularly can actually improve other health risks and conditions.
"Oral health effects every part of our body," she said. "If your diabetes or your blood sugar is out of control, you're more likely have problems in your mouth. If you get that oral stuff taken care of, it can decrease blood sugar by 10 to 20%. That's why it's really important that these patients see their dentist often. Maintaining good oral health also applies to anyone who smokes or has bad habits that increase risks for heart disease."
Making people feel more comfortable during COVID is critical to getting them in to see their dentist. And that can start with a simple conversation to better understand how each is getting through these uncertain times.
"It's important for us to talk to patients to understand what they are going through and refer them if they have mental or physical health needs," said Gordon. "If we don't have things in our life under control, we're likely struggling with other things. And if we get depressed, then everything can get worse. When our immune system is compromised, we're more focused on what we're eating or taking our blood sugar or insulin to stay healthy; we're not thinking about going to the dentist. This is why integrating our dental, medical and behavioral health is so important at this time, and for the future of healthcare."
Read more personal health stories on our Moda Health Community page.
We have exciting news to share. ODS is changing its name to Moda Health.
Moda comes from the latin term "modus" and means "a way". We picked it because that's what we are here to do: help our communities find a way to better health.
Together, we can be more, be better.
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