As we've all cautiously settled into our new at-home routines, we're taking this time to pay a little extra care and attention to certain parts of our regimen. One area to consider, for example, is our oral hygiene. Most of us usually breeze through our morning and nighttime tooth brushing sessions on autopilot, but now that we're all stuck at home, it might be worth paying more attention. Mostly, because none of us wants to end up with a surprise dental emergency when most dentist offices are closed at the moment. Plus, your oral health is often perceived as the gateway to how the rest of your body is doing, which means a healthier mouth can mean a healthier you. We caught up with celebrity dentist Dr. Matt Nejad, who counts Jay-Z and Beyoncé as clients, and asked him to share his best tips on keeping our mouths in tip-top shape as we stay quarantined. If Queen Bey trusts him with her smile, you can bet we will too.
Start Replacing Your Toothbrush
“I’d suggest replacing your toothbrush right now, then doing it again in one to two weeks," says Dr. Nejad. "Continue this until we’re on the backside of this crisis.” Your toothbrush can pick up a host of germs, so also be mindful of where you place it on your bathroom counter (two words: toilet spray). Keep your toothbrush in a clean area where it can dry without interference. Replacing your toothbrush (or toothbrush head, if you're using an electronic one) can help reduce the risk of contracting any virus, not just COVID-19.
When virus season is rampant, it's important to try and have your own oral care products to reduce the transference of germs. Considering how things like floss, toothpaste and toothbrushes literally go in your mouth where viruses easily enter the body, it's best to keep transference to a minimum. Keep you own roll of floss, your own water pick, even your own roll of toothpaste. Anything that you handle just prior to putting your hands near your mouth should belong to only you. "Don’t even rip off a piece of floss from your roll and hand it to a family member," says Dr. Nejad.
Be Extra Careful About Cleaning
If you wear a retainer, night guard, or Invisalign, Dr. Nejad recommends washing them out with soap and water after each time you wear them—they can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Also, make sure after washing you place them in a clean case where they can air-dry away from any contamination. If you're used to dropping them in a glass of water with an oral disinfecting tablet, beware: Dr. Nejad says they're probably not enough right now and you should give any product that goes in your mouth a proper cleanse.
Pause on Popcorn
To avoid any surprise trips to your dentist during this time, Dr. Nejad suggests avoiding foods that commonly get stuck between your teeth or under your gums, which can cause pain, inflammation or infection. Popcorn, he mentions, is the most common culprit, but hard or sticky candy or gum should also be skipped because they can cause your tooth to crack or break. “Again, the goal is to not need your dentist right now," he says. To our pantry microwavable popcorn: goodbye, if only for awhile.
Avoid the Crunch
“If you have an area that is sensitive, don’t aggravate it with crunchy or sticky food," says Dr. Nejad. "Also, try to avoid chewing in that spot, if possible." Stick to soft foods and liquids for as long as you can to avoid inflaming the area even more. Though some dentists are operating at the moment, Dr. Nejad suggests that, if you can, try to put off going in for any dental work if you can until quarantine orders are over.
Consider Tongue Scraping
Now might be the perfect time to pick up a tongue scraping habit since, you know, you might not have much else to do. Tongue scraping is an ancient practice that is thought to help your oral health, as well as help boost your immunity by reducing the bacterial load in your mouth, which affects your body’s microbiome. You can click here to find out what tongue scraping is and how it can benefit you.
Matsui M, Chosa N, Shimoyama Y, Minami K, Kimura S, Kishi M. Effects of tongue cleaning on bacterial flora in tongue coating and dental plaque: a crossover study. BMC Oral Health. 2014 Jan 14;14:4. doi: 10.1186/1472-6831-14-4.