Updated: May 8
Being at home day in and day out definitely has its pros and cons. I finally have the time to apply Marie Kondo techniques to spring-clean my closet and pantry. Organizing and cleaning is definitely a mood-booster. On the personal tidying-up front, I am looking forward to getting a haircut and routine teeth cleaning when things reopen. In the meantime, I asked Dr. Alina Lukashevsky, a cosmetic dentist, for some dental hygiene tips we can use at home right now.
Dr. Lukashevsky is a cosmetic dentist in private practice in Soho, NYC, with over ten years of experience. She is a graduate of NYU Dental School and currently also teaches at the Mount Sinai General Residency Program. You can find her on Instagram @dr.alinadds or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
What have you been doing during this quarantine? What are you doing to be more kind to yourself?
It is the first time in my life that I am not working, which has given me time to think about priorities; to slow down, and use this time productively. This, of course, raised the question of what it is that I am supposed to be doing with my time? I have been extremely minimal and simplistic in my day to day life, putting the focus on a healthy body and a healthy mind. I have been doing yoga with my favorite teacher Nick from Woom Center on Zoom, cooking all meals at home, going for walks, bike rides, reading, and learning. I reach out daily for connections and conversations with friends and family. So far, it has gotten me through this pretty trying time. I want to remove any pressure or complexity in my life, at least the parts I can control.
What is the biggest dental care misconception?
Hmm, probably that dentistry is painful? I would say that dentistry has come such a long way. The technology is amazing, the cosmetic materials are fantastic, we can do so much now. I also try to be so gentle when I work on my patients. As for prevention, proper dental care at a very young age is very crucial for minimal treatment as an adult.
I cannot get a dental cleaning right now, can you share your home-care dental hygiene best practices?
I think it is important to minimize bacteria in your mouth always, but even more so now. I recommend brushing in the morning, then swoosh, and gargle with mouthwash (if too strong mix with water). Before bed, floss and brush again.
I prefer electric toothbrushes because they are more powerful so they polish the teeth better. All you have to do is guide them along all tooth surfaces. I use a Sonicare toothbrush, Glide floss, Listerine with Fluoride, and Sensodyne toothpaste. I would also suggest to get a dental scaler at the pharmacy so you can gently remove plaque the way a hygienist would. Just be careful not to poke or scratch yourself.
I treat a lot of TMJ pain and bruxism with acupuncture. Can you share any tips to ease the pain at home since they cannot come in for treatments now?
Yes, these are such prevalent conditions! Massaging the area around the TMJ joint is extremely pleasant and relieves a lot of tension.
I would open and close the jaw gently a few times, just to get movement and blood flow going. As soon as you notice your jaw is tense, you can release it by moving it around a little. Then massage the masseter muscle and the temples for a few minutes on each side. These should be very enjoyable, tender spots to massage. I would also do stretches of the neck and shoulders because the entire mechanism is connected. I am a huge believer in releasing tension of the head and neck muscles, acupuncture is great for that when things reopen again.
*Editor's note: See below picture for location of the masseter muscle, and proximal acupuncture points one can apply acupressure, to help release any jaw pain and/or tension.
Also, some people have a hard time breathing at night because their airways may be compromised for a variety of reasons. Their bodies compensate by constantly moving their jaws forward so they can breathe better (bruxism). This puts tons of stress on the muscles of the face. When things reopen, it is a good idea to do a sleep study and figure out if one is suffering from inadequate oxygen at night. There are treatments that can really help you breathe better and hence grind your teeth much less at night.