COVID AND TEETH- THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE: A Compilation of effects of covid-19 on Dentistry 

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By Mallika Vilas Adhav     

Pune, 3rd March 2022: Dentistry is a colossal system on its own that not only includes the dentists but also the patients who are longing for their respective dental assistance and even the students who are probing for dentistry. The novel Coronavirus pandemic defines a new risk for all dental practitioners, hygienists, and dental assistants. The following research opines on the effects of covid-19 on the dentists, the particular oral findings in patients as a consequence of the virus and also the educational impact on students who are pursuing dentistry. 

COVID-19 AND TEETH, IS THERE ANY LINK? – PATIENTS ASPECT

•        1] TASTE DISORDERS

– The primary oral manifestation of covid-19 has been patients’ describing their experience as anosmia. The disorder is closely linked to ageusia i.e a total loss of taste. Those with altered or distorted taste loss may be dealing with hypogeusia or dysgeusia.

•        2] CRACKED TEETH

– According to the American Dental Associationn , dentists have noted a 59% increase in teeth grinding, or bruxism, and a 53% increase in chipped and cracked teeth since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• They suggest that this happens due to higher anxiety levels during the pandemic.

Poor posture resulting from a work-from-home environment also fathoms out the following possibility

3] ULCERS

• Congruent to other viral infections, SARS-CoV-2 deteriorates the immune system and makes a person susceptible to other secondary conditions. Ulcers can a be common oral finding.

• Symptoms include-, white or red bumps in the mouth, dull pain, discomfort while eating and drinking &/OR a burning sensation

4] GINGIVITIS

• Poor oral hygiene can lead to the accumulation of bacteria that stick to the teeth and form dental plaque. This is a common cause of gingivitis.

• Common symptoms include red, swollen gums, bleeding gums when brushing or flossing, bad breath, &/or an unpleasant taste in the mouth

•        5] HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS

– HSV-1 is a highly contagious infection, that is common and endemic throughout the world but it has grown importance due to covid-19 infection. The vast majority of HSV-1 infections are oral herpes infections in or around the mouth, sometimes called orolabial, oral-labial or oral-facial herpes.

•        COVID AND THE DENTIST DILEMMA- The virus is aerosol-transmissible and, because of the nature of dental procedures, this puts dental professionals and patients at a high risk of contamination by this pathogen. 

•        1] ACCESS

– As the pandemic undoubtedly suggested a lockdown far and wide, it led to reduced opening hours and closure of dental practices, except in the case of only emergency procedures. This bounded people’s ability to access routine care.

•        2]SAFETY OF DENTAL PRACTITIONERS

– Though we have satisfactorily managed to get grips with vaccines now, safety was still a prime matter of concern at the initial onset of the pandemic as both the patient and the dentist would be unaware of the health status of the person directing in front of them. As there would always be a high risk of getting contaminated with the virus, following all safety protocols was a must to avoid all cruxes.

•        3] THE MENTAL TIZ-WOZ

The angst of being infected and of infecting others, agonising about own family becoming infected and also worrying about working with COVID-19 patients and other professionals created an uncertain psychological turmoil in the dentist’s frame of mind and in turn affected their everyday well-being

•        COVID AND DENTAL STUDENTS-Dental institutions are reeling from the consequences of the novel SARS-CoV2 coronavirus, the causative agent of CODIV-19. As oral health care providers, we have been trained on the prevention of aerosol transmissible diseases, but we are still grappling with many unknown factors regarding COVID-19. Since the pandemic demanded schools and colleges to be temporarily shut down till the situation wasn’t favourable, teaching took place online which bewildered students under certain topics. Live discussions, informal interrogations between students and teachers became finite resulting in aloof and procrastination of assessments among students. Though teachers give their 100 per cent in teaching tools, accessing practical knowledge via attending patients or clinical practices became unattainable hindering students’ skills and familiarity with clinical exposure. 

•        The outcome of the following research states – RESULT

• PATIENTS- there is a significant presence of ulcers, gingivitis, oral herpes simplex virus, 

loss of taste, cracked tooth appearance owing to the coronavirus.

• DENTIST- the curbed timings for access to a dental clinic and visiting the dentist, safety being a solicitude and the mental dilemma of the dentist of addressing a patient and keeping their closed ones and those around safe at the same time was an unpleasant situation, where difficult choices were to be made.

• STUDENTS- online teaching resulting to sometimes misapprehension and laxity of clinical exposure in students.

Individuals need to take auxiliary precautions to avoid oral health issues resulting from the virus. While many dentists believe revenue decreases will continue to be a challenge in 2021, we can at least make sure that dental offices should remain open to continue treating patients without facing a full-on shutdown again. Students need to accelerate their engrossment via active participation to cope with the educational deprivation like attending in-person teaching and practicals. Adequate management protocols and specific protective approaches are essential to minimise the spread of COVID-19 in dental settings during the outbreak.

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(Mallika Vilas Adhav is a final year BDS student at MA Rangoonwala College of Dental Sciences and Research Centre, Pune. She was guided by Dr Renuka Nagrale (HOD) and Dr Mandar Todkar, Dept of public health dentistry, MA Rangoonwala Dental College)