Dental Health Week: The Effects of COVID on Oral Health

For Dental Health Week (August 1-7), one of the key findings from the Australian Dental Association’s (ADA) annual consumer survey of 25,000 Australians, is that one in three has postponed dental treatment in the past 12 months due to COVID-related concerns.

Among those who postponed, this included 23% of 18-24 year olds, rising to 41% of 65-74 year olds, with more women than men reporting across all age groups.

Why the delay?

The main reason for the delay, cited by respondents, is that they felt their dental problem was not urgent (26%), while 17% were worried about catching COVID at the dental clinic or going there. , 16% said they were not in a financial situation for dental care and 14% did not show up due to confinements or could not go to the dental clinic.

Of those who delayed dental appointments, 21% felt it affected them negatively, while 17% were unsure if this was the case. Residents of Victoria, NSW and the ACT who experienced longer periods of lockdown more often reported that their oral health had been affected.

“These statistics tell us a lot about the oral health situation for people during the Covid pandemic,” said Dr Mikaela Chinotti, ADA Oral Health Promoter and Sydney dentist.

“With people losing their jobs or working reduced hours, dental care took a lower priority or was inaccessible during the closures for some families.

“That said, with two-thirds of people still receiving treatment or coming in for checkups, especially in states less affected by the shutdowns, this is good news for the country’s oral health, because untreated oral diseases can lead to serious consequences, including on the rest. from the body.”

Delay tactics

Of those who postponed a visit, 42% postponed a routine dental checkup, 26% postponed checking for a new problem, and 24% delayed treatment of an existing problem.

An additional 8% postponed their appointment for “another reason”. Reasons for doing so (in order of most reports) included a referral from another medical professional for a related medical condition such as teeth grinding, care for a minor injury, cosmetic issues such such as teeth whitening, fitting or adjusting dental appliance such as braces and buying dental products such as mouth guard or whitening products.

The next visit to the dentist

Fortunately, many Australians don’t plan to delay too long: 54% planned to leave in the next 1-3 months, 22% were going to book within 3-12 months and others were waiting for the pandemic to abate or reach the full vaccination status or were still unsure.

“Anecdotally, we have heard from many ADA member dentists that with the stress of the pandemic, there has been an increase in cracked teeth, tooth sensitivity, and/or pain associated with clenching or to teeth grinding and increased jaw joint discomfort,” said Dr. Chinotti.

“For Australians who have delayed dental care due to the COVID pandemic, Dental Health Week is a great reminder that it’s time to show your teeth some love by taking them to the dentist.

“When not at the dentist, Australians can also find up-to-date, evidence-based oral health advice online in the form of short educational videos, articles and a multi-part podcast. episodes on the ADA’s consumer-focused website: www.teeth .org.au.

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