When lockdown resulted in the closure of pretty much everything, the worst that some people have had to endure is a queue at their local supermarket, a missed hair cut or being unable to visit their favourite retail shops. However, for some people, the closure of dental practices has had much more painful consequences, with some feeling compelled to take matters into their own hands – quite literally!
Lockdown has enabled millions of people all over the UK to master new skills – cooking and baking, cutting the families hair, renovating the house, upgrading the garden and for those home schooling, becoming a teacher! But with thousands of dental practices closed and some patients unable to access urgent treatment, there’s also been an increase in people resorting to DIY dentistry. There’s been reports of people trying to reattach or replace their fillings, carrying out orthodontic wire trims, creating homemade gum shields, bursting abscesses with needles, using superglue to reattach crowns and even tooth extractions!
Although dentists in England have now finally been given the green light to open with the right PPE and safety measures in place, there is still a large backlog of patients to clear and appointments in some areas will be hard to get for months yet.
So what can you do to take care of your teeth in the meantime and what if any treatment is safe to do at home?
Before you attempt anything yourself at home it is important to seek professional advice from your own dentist who knows you and your medical history. They will be able to ascertain if it is serious or requires emergency dentist treatment and will be able to guide you on what is safe to do at home as well as determine if you need to be prescribed antibiotics.
If you experience any of the following then you must attempt to speak to your dentist first, if you are unable to or the problems persist then call the NHS helpline on 111.
- Gums that will not stop bleeding
- Extreme tooth sensitivity or toothache causing constant pain
- Have a tooth that has been knocked out or is jagged
- Swollen cheeks or gums
- General extreme pain from swelling or possible infection
Knocked Out Teeth
If your tooth gets knocked out, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is gone for good. If recovered and treated quickly it can often be repositioned in the mouth and saved.
If your tooth is knocked out, then try to remain calm and follow these steps;
- Find the missing tooth
- Wash it very carefully and remove dirt or debris
- Avoid touching any of the root surface which can damage the delicate fibres
- Hold the tooth by the crown
- If possible, within 60 minutes of being knocked out, put the tooth back in the socket
- If this isn’t possible then place the tooth in a cup of milk and contact your dentist who will be able to advise you on the next steps
The chances of a successful reattachment decrease the longer the tooth is out of the socket so acting quickly is essential.
Fillings and Crowns
If you have any pain or discomfort, then over the counter pain relief such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can help to take the edge off. If the pain is as a result of an exposure, then covering the area with a sugar free gum or wax (Babybel cheese wax works a treat) until you are able to obtain a kit or proper treatment should help.
Temporary filling kits or temporary cement are available from chemists and online retailers and can be administered at home.
If you have a very sharp point or chip that is proving to be painful, catching the tongue or gums and it is safe to do so then you can attempt to smooth this down with an emery board. Make sure it is new and clean and work very slowly and gently to only file away the minimum amount to dull the sharpness – don’t overdo it!
Desensitising toothpastes can be purchased in almost any supermarket or pharmacy and should be used when brushing as well as an ointment or cream to apply to the areas around the tooth with a clean finger or cotton bud. Avoiding food and drink that are very hot or cold is also advised to help avoid additional pain and discomfort.
Loose or broken wires and lost brackets can be a common occurrence for those wearing braces and being unable to visit the orthodontist regularly can be worrying but the British Orthodontist Society advises that most braces and ongoing treatment can be left for months without detriment if properly cared for.
The advice for orthodontic care is to;
- Continue brushing 3 times a day using a standard toothbrush and interproximal brush along with a fluoride mouth rinse once a day.
- Try to keep your diet low in sugar avoiding fizzy drinks and consume plenty of water.
- Hard, sticky or hazardous foods that could cause breakages of the teeth or wires should be avoided.
Lockdown over the Easter period now moving well into summer has meant a lot of extra treats for most people so be careful not to overdo it on the sugar!
It is extremely important to maintain good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day, every day and using mouthwash in the middle of the day, not after brushing as most people believe.
Remember to change your toothbrush or electric toothbrush heads regularly – around every 3 months or so is advised.
Sharrow Dental in Essex
Although dental practices have now been permitted to open providing the right precautions are taken, we are currently still unable to offer appointments for things such as routine check-ups, treatments and hygiene appointments.
However, our team are working very hard to ensure that all the necessary health and safety measures are put into place to help protect our staff and patients and we anticipate being able to reopen for appointments very soon. Please visit our COVID-19 advice page to find out more.