OPINION

Oral health care during the pandemic

Oral health care during the pandemic

Has the pandemic affected the way you and your family are looking after your teeth and gums?

We know that Australian children, for example, made 881,454 fewer trips to the dentist in 2020 than in 2019 - with the largest decline in April. The greatest drops were in preventative and diagnostic services.

Yet more antibiotics and opioid analgesics were prescribed by dentists - indicating people were experiencing more oral health issues than ever.

There may be very good reasons for this; perhaps it was because many dentists were closed, cancelled appointments during lockdown, or it was difficult to secure an appointment.

Maybe many people were apprehensive about leaving home, for risk of being infected with COVID-19.

Or perhaps they were too focussed on the basics - remote learning, maintaining a business, paying the rent - to pay attention to their own, or their children's, oral health.

When we're experiencing significant stress and anxiety, health-promoting behaviours can fall by the wayside. But, pandemic or no pandemic, it's absolutely critical that this doesn't happen.

Tooth decay is one of the most prevalent health conditions affecting Australians, and a leading cause of preventable hospitalisation.

Poor oral health is also associated with a number of other chronic diseases, including stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Researchers and oral health specialists know this. They've been recommending that oral hygiene should be maintained, if not improved, throughout the pandemic - particularly for vulnerable groups.

At La Trobe University, we'd like to get a better understanding of how the pandemic that has impacted on Australians' oral health.

Does being out of routine, or working from home, make you less likely to think about your teeth and gums?

Have you tried and failed to get a check-up or treatment at your local dentist?

Or perhaps your oral health is better than ever, because you have more time to focus on it?

Your valuable insights will help service providers, researchers and policy-makers design dental care systems that are responsive to Australians' needs, and prioritise care for vulnerable groups into the future.

If you're an Australian aged over 18, we'd love you to complete this 15-minute survey: https://now.latrobe/oralhealth

We've all been affected by this pandemic.

Let's use our insights to build a stronger and more responsive dental care system.

Dr Virginia Dickson-Swift is a Senior Research Fellow at the Violet Vines Marshman Centre for Rural Health Research at La Trobe University.

This story Oral health care during the pandemic first appeared on The Canberra Times.