Report highlights impact of COVID-19 on UK's oral health
A new report by Align Technology reveals that more than two million dental appointments may have been affected during the first lockdown while mouth cancer referrals were down by around 90%.
Mouth cancer specialist Professor Mike Lewis says he normally receives 100 oral cancer referrals over the same period of time; during lockdown, he received only three. And with a second lockdown looming, this is set is set to only get worse.
'Avoidance of routine dental care and routine check-ups isn’t without risk,' said leading dentist and President of independent think tank The Pandora Group, Mark Cronshaw. 'Roughly half of the population is estimated to suffer from some form of chronic periodontal (gum) disease. This infection has been associated with over 50 different medical conditions including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, plus an increased susceptibility to COVID-19. Furthermore, 12,000 people a year develop oral cancer, some of which are identified at dental check-ups.'
Over a third (41%) of respondents claim they feel more insecure about their smile since lockdown, most likely due to an increased number of video calls. Nearly two out of five (38%) reveal they have snacked more during the pandemic, which dental experts warn has a detrimental effect on our oral health, while a handful (6%) admit they are brushing their teeth less and replacing their toothbrush head less often.
The solution to some dental issues, experts suggest, could be virtual appointments. Nearly two out of three (64%) respondents questioned confirmed they would be happy to ‘see’ their dentist on a screen. What’s more, patients who have used a virtual clinic or phone consultation during lockdown had 97% and 94% satisfaction with their experience, respectively.2 In a post-COVID-19 world, this could transform the way we interact with our dentists.
There has also been a surge in adults seeking teeth-straightening solutions, according to reports. Over three quarters (80%) of orthodontists report an increase in adult patients, with more than one in 10 of us (15%) inspired by celebrities and bloggers. The majority of adult patients (85%) are said to be aged 26 to 55, and are most likely to be female (80%).4
While protective masks, gloves and clothing has always been the norm for dentists, an independent dental think tank called The Pandora Group created a recommended eight-step safety protocol for dental practices post lockdown.
Their recommendation reduces the risk of infection in dental practices to about 0.1%, and includes the use of air sterilisation, mouth protectors called rubber dams and pre-treatment checks. The report suggests going to your dentist is safe, and attending should be actively encouraged for your oral and overall health.1
Align Technology has committed $1 million to the Align Foundation to source and supply personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supply donations as well as making cash donations to the World Health Organisation in Europe. It is also using its 3D printing technology and manufacturing expertise to produce face shields and medical swaps to support the fight against COVID-19.
Visit www.aligntech.com for more information.
Author: Julie Bissett