Oral Health Is Impacted by Social Isolation

Elderly woman sitting alone on a couch. Caption: Dental problems have been a consequence of social isolation.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, scientists, the media, and individuals have been concerned with the effects of social distancing and isolation. During the worst phases of the pandemic, people were urged to stay at home as much as possible to avoid coming in contact with the virus or spreading it. Here at Dental Partners of Boston, we closed our doors until it was safe to return to operations with plenty of new safety procedures in place to protect the health of our teams and our patients.

Consequences of Isolation

Although lockdowns seemed necessary at the time to prevent disease, there were doubtless many social, financial, and health costs to social isolation. The feeling of loneliness or boredom impacted mental and physical health. Many people did not keep up with their regular health checkups, including dental cleaning and exams.

Supply shortages and anxiety about going to the supermarket may have meant that some people were not eating a balanced diet or getting enough sunlight, which is necessary for the health and strength of teeth and bones.

Dental health is impacted by many factors that can be affected by social isolation. It is, therefore, important not to ignore any link between healthy teeth and remaining alone for too long.

How Isolation Affects Mental and Physical Health

A study in the Lancet in 2020 established a connection between social isolation and anxiety and depression. These conditions can also affect physical health, lower immunity, and compromise cardiovascular functioning. A report published by the National Academy of Sciences found that those who lacked satisfying relationships and friendships had a 29% higher incidence of heart attack and a 32% greater chance of having a stroke.

How Isolation Affects Dental Health

Declining emotional and physical health can lessen one’s motivation to engage in regular hygiene routines, such as brushing and flossing teeth or going to regular dental appointments. In addition, those who are depressed or are suffering from health problems may not pay attention to their diet and could lack calcium and magnesium with builds bones and teeth. Gum health is also dependent on hygiene habits and when it is neglected, the need to see a periodontist in Boston may be necessary.

Often people who live alone, particularly older adults, may skimp on food because they are only feeding themselves. They may therefore lack essential nutrients. In addition, people often associate good oral hygiene with going out and meeting people, for instance, it is common to brush one’s teeth before going out. Remaining isolated may cause older adults to neglect these routines and lose teeth.

Is There a Link Between Isolation and Tooth Loss?

According to the World Health Organization, elderly socially isolated individuals had on average 2.1 fewer teeth and lost their teeth at 1.4 times the rate of those who had regular companionship.

How to Ensure Socially Isolated and Elderly People In Your Life Get Proper Dental Care

If you, or an elderly family member or a friend have not had an annual dental checkup so far this year, schedule an appointment and bring them to our professionals at Dental Partners of Boston.

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