Coronavirus lockdown eating habits take dental toll

‘You could in all probability say it’s down to the Covid diet,’ says Carlow dentist

Dr Caroline Robins says since her dental surgery in Carlow town reopened last month there have been "a lot of patients coming in with broken fillings".

“You could probably say it’s down to the Covid diet, the sweets and crisps and things like that, we’ve seen a lot of broken fillings,” she says.

Ms Robins’ surgery, Kiwi Dental, remained open during lockdown for emergency treatments and phone consultations, and reopened for routine services on May 18th.

There has also been an increase in patients mentioning teeth grinding, she says.

“A lot of people have said themselves ‘I think I was clenching’ or ‘I think I broke the tooth because I was grinding in my sleep’.

“I know myself I’m waking up in the morning and I’m absolutely clenching,” she says. “It’s been a very worrying time, it’s very stressful. You worry for your staff, patients, the business. It’s not been a healthy time but I just have to be positive that we are allowed to be back.”

Ms Robins says her surgery has been very busy since reopening for routine services but due to social distancing guidelines she hasn’t been able to see as many patients per day.

“The number of patients who I would see in a day has decreased. I would have probably seen about an average of 15 a day,” she says.

“When I first went back I was probably managing to see seven or eight. We’re nearly three weeks into it now, it’s fine tuning itself but you don’t see as many in a day. We can’t facilitate drop-ins, people can’t just drop in to the surgery like they used to.

“Everything is through front of house, we triage very well on the phone, we have very specific questions that the patients are asked. They obviously have to pass that before we make an appointment.”

Childcare problems

But she notes that while dentists and dental hygienists are used to wearing PPE and cross-contamination controls, childcare remains a problem for staff.

“We’re caught, like lots of places, some of my staff have childcare issues and they can’t come back to work yet. I am back full-time and working an extra day,” she says.

“I’d say that’s the reality for a lot of places and we’re just trying to work around it as best we can.”

Ms Robins says despite the uncertainty the pandemic has brought, it has resulted in some positives for her business.

“It’s been good in terms of sitting down and looking at your business model and how the place is run and fine tuning things,” she says.

“There are some good things I think have come from it. I never had a moment to sit down and think before, you would race from one patient to the next to the next. It’s very pressurised. You’re constantly against the clock.

“Looking at other bits of the business during the downtime has been helpful and seeing where changes can be made.”