Oral health over the holidays

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  Posted by: The Probe      20th November 2020

When it comes to month of December, you naturally think about the approaching festivities. It’s the time of year when people start frantically shopping for gifts, arranging events and meeting up with family and friends. But this year it is likely to be different. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is now used to following government guidelines and adhering to restrictions. Social distancing, wearing face coverings and gathering in small groups have become part of the “new normal”. But after such a challenging year there is the risk that some people may develop a devil-may-care attitude and throw all caution to the wind during the festive season. This includes their approach to oral hygiene.

Most of us indulge in more food and drink at this time of year and for many people, oral hygiene often takes a back seat. Yet after enduring the long days of lockdown and strange experiences such as working alone for weeks on end or being separated from loved ones; people are even more likely to forget all about their health. As a result, dental professionals need to really drive home the message this year to prevent patients from neglecting their oral health.

Feeling deprived is not conducive for good habits. It can make us feel entitled to put ourselves back in balance with a treat. This is evident from the data gathered recently by the Global Drugs Survey 2020, where over half of British respondents reported that they had increased the number of days that they drank alcohol during the global pandemic. Out of 20 countries, the UK also had the most respondents that reported drinking earlier in the day and over a third increased the amount they drank.[i] It appears similar when it comes to smoking too. Although ASH (Action on smoking and health) reported that a million people have stopped smoking since the pandemic hit, around 2.2 million smokers in the UK are having more than their usual number of cigarettes.[ii]

Also, you only have to take a quick conversation with your friends before the subject of weight gain comes up. It’s undeniable that during the lockdown period increased snacking, a less healthy diet and lower levels of physical activity were a problem. According to the COVID Symptom Study app a body weight increase of between 0.78kg (1.6lbs) and 3kg (6.5lbs) during the lockdown period was reported across the country.[iii] As professionals will know, increased weight can have a knock-on effect for oral health, with overweight individuals being more likely to develop periodontal disease[iv] and conditions such as diabetes, which can have further substantial impacts the oral cavity.

So, what can professionals do to help ensure a happy festive period? The most vital step to take is giving patients the information and advice they need. Talk them through the risks of weight gain and risks surrounding higher intake of alcohol. Suggest products that will keep them interested in and prioritising their oral health – you can also remind them that with Christmas comes photos, so they’re going to want their smile looking healthy!

This year the festivities are likely to be very different, but that doesn’t mean that people should push their oral health to the wayside. By keeping patients interested and involved as well as informed, you can help ensure that whatever happens, their oral health won’t suffer over the holidays.

 

For more information about the BSDHT, please visit www.bsdht.org.uk,

call 01788 575050 or email enquiries@bsdht.org.uk

 

Julie Deverick – With over 30 years of experience as a dental hygienist, Julie has much to offer the profession in her role as President of BSDHT.  As with all dental professionals, she is proud of the training school where she trained, and in her case, this was the Royal Army Dental Corps.  Julie then spent the next 22 years honing her skills which combined clinical and military duties.  Throughout that time, she worked in the UK and overseas clinics before spending the final six years of her military career back at the training school where she qualified, eventually becoming the Principal Tutor. During this time she also gained the qualification in Certificate of Education.

Alongside her clinical skills her military background has taught her leadership, management and administration skills as well as exposed her to many courses that will help her with her new BSDHT role. These have already been utilised throughout her time on the Executive Committee, which she joined in 2013 as Honorary Secretary before becoming President Elect in 2016.

Julie continues to work in practice so she understands some of the frustrations and limitations of the job which is why she is keen to continue supporting members of BSDHT by working with the Executive Committee and others, to break the barriers that confine dental hygienists and dental therapists in the workplace.

 

[i] Global Drugs Survey Special Edition on COVID-19. https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/gds-covid-19-special-edition-key-findings-report/ [Accessed 21st September 2020]

[ii] Busby M. Millions in UK smoking more amid coronavirus crisis, study suggests. The Guardian. May 20th 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/may/20/millions-uk-smoking-more-amid-coronavirus-crisis-study-suggests [Accessed 21st September 2020]

[iii] COVID Symptom Study. Has lockdown influenced our eating habits? https://covid.joinzoe.com/post/lockdown-weight-gain [Accessed 21st September 2020]

[iv] Halder, S. et al. Association between Obesity and Oral Health Status in Schoolchildren: A Survey in Five Districts of West Bengal, India. Int J Clin Pediatr Dent. 2018 May-Jun; 11(3): 233–237.


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