Covid-19 and Paediatric Oral Health
Movement restrictions adopted by most countries, in response to Covid-19 have disrupted medical visits, as well as routine dental appointments for those who were lucky enough to have had them in the past.
There has never been the perfect time for parents to learn about the risk of tooth decay and how to prevent it, which are crucial for disease prevention, including dental disease. And children should receive applications of fluoride varnish on their teeth. Fluoride is one of the best preventive measures oral health practitioners can take during this period of pandemic.
Considering the pandemic, a recent article for Health Affairs highlights new strategies which are gaining traction during this pandemic. One strategy is to explore novel approaches to expanding the number of people who can perform meaningful roles in providing care for or educating patients.
In all public health systems, home visitors, community health workers, and promoters should play key roles in educating families and reinforcing healthy habits while maintaining social isolation.
A Dental Approach:
As oral health leaders we should explore the mandatory option of lay health workers, or even parents, to apply fluoride varnish to children’s teeth, during these lockdowns.
Using telehealth as a strategy is also promising. In a crisis like Covid-19, telehealth can help prevent oral health care and education from being completely cut off. Besides facilitating a patient-dental provider consultation over the internet, telehealth models can raise awareness and help people monitor conditions that affect their risk of tooth decay.
With the help of web-based apps and other telehealth tools, parents can discuss routines and promote healthy habits, such as choosing fluoridated tap water over sugary drinks to prevent tooth decay.
There have been programs that use text messages to educate pregnant women for many years. Advocacy groups could use this mode of communication to offer positive messages about oral health to families. We could then encourage parents to brush their children’s teeth more often If this were to happen, young children should brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
I believe this crisis reinforces that we must continue to identify additional vehicles and new stakeholders within Covid-19, whom we might enlist in order to assist families in understanding the importance of oral health prevention.
Minnesota Oral Health Coalition MOHC. Provider Training Fluoride Varnish HD [Internet]. YouTube. 2016 [cited 2021 Jun 3].
Fast Track to Teledentistry: Removing Barriers to Care While Maximizing Care. 2020 Mar 27 [cited 2021 Jun 3]; Available from: https://www.carequest.org/sites/default/files/DQP_Fast-trackToTeledentistry_Final.pdf
Hashemian T. Saliva PH -Measure, Monitor and Educate -Now it is EASY! [Internet]. ; [cited 2021 Jun 3]. Available from: http://www.nnoha.org/nnoha-content/uploads/2016/09/Saliva-PH-%E2%80%93-Measure-Monitor-and-Educate-%E2%80%93-Now-it-is-EASY.pdf
Emerging Health Workforce Strategies To Address COVID-19 | Health Affairs Blog [Internet]. Healthaffairs.org. 2021 [cited 2021 Jun 3].