A post-Covid dental health crisis might be avoided after new research showed adults across the UK have used the Covid-19 pandemic, and cancelled dental appointments, to improve their oral hygiene habits.
It found that one in five of us (19%) have brushed our teeth more, 14% have spent more time flossing and 21% used more mouthwash than previously.
The survey, by Portman Dental Care, looked at how our dental habits have changed from March 2020, as the country was gripped by the pandemic and dentist practices were forced to close for at least three months, apart from emergency appointments.
Those in London increased flossing (20%) and using mouthwash (27%) the most, while people living in Northern Ireland (30%) and East Anglia (24%) increased the number of times they brushed their teeth.
Dentists are now hoping the increase in people focusing more on their dental health will continue and reduce the number of fillings and extractions in the coming weeks and months.
Catherine Tannahill, director of clinical dentistry at Portman Dental Care, said: “We compiled the survey to help assess the state of the nation’s teeth and oral health, to understand how people had looked after their teeth during the 12 months since lockdown.
“And, while we know many people had dentist (54%), dental hygienist (22%) and ongoing treatment (9%) appointments cancelled, it seems lots of people have taken extra measures to ensure their dental health didn’t suffer due to Covid-19.
“While we’ll never fully understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic for months if not years, it’s good to see the number of people who have taken steps to improve their dental hygiene.”
The pandemic also had a significant impact on when people brushed their teeth, as working from home and furlough impacted everyone’s daily lives.
Two in five people brushed their teeth at different times, with those in the North East (53%) and Northern Ireland (47%) changing more often than others around the UK.
And the survey also revealed a quarter of people (24%) admitted to forgetting to brush their teeth at times, with those in East Anglia, Wales and London most likely to do so (28%).
“It’s understandable that people would sometimes forget to brush their teeth given the circumstances faced during the last year,” added Catherine.
“Brushing teeth is an important daily routine, and with lives thrown into chaos, children at home and people trying to understand the lockdown rules, we’re pleased to see this was still happening, albeit for some at different times of the day.
“Ideally we should brush our teeth first thing in the morning and just before we go to bed.
“And while this might take time for people to adjust to, the most important thing is people continue to brush their teeth twice a day.”
While many people associate taking care of our teeth and gums with brushing and flossing, eating sugary food or snacks can have the biggest impact on our teeth.
Almost a quarter (22%) of people said they have reduced their intake of sugary foods since lockdowns began compared to just 15% who admitted eating more.
Those in the North West have seen the lowest increase in sugary foods consumption (8%), while 22% in the region had reduced this intake.
Catherine said: “Overall, it seems we are eating less sugary foods, and this could be one of the major factors in helping to reduce the chance of a post-Covid dental health crisis.
“Acidic and sugary foods damage out teeth through decay and erosion, with decay occurring when sugars are broken down into acid by bacteria in plaque, and erosion directly damaging teeth through acidic foods.
“As we emerge from a year of lockdowns and start to get used to new timetables in many aspects of our lives, it’s important we continue the good habits we’ve taken up.
“If we can do this then we can reduce the potential dental crisis caused by Covid-19.”