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Can’t visit the dentist? Here’s how to take better care of your teeth | Health & wellbeing

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For many of us, the routine trip to the dentist is just one of the ways in which our lives have been disrupted in 2020. The British Dental Association (BDA) estimates that, since the March lockdown, dentists in England have provided nearly 19m fewer treatments than in the same period last year.

What do you need to know about dental emergencies, and what more can you do to care for your teeth? We asked the experts.

What dentistry services are currently available?

Although some routine dental treatments are now available again, in the UK, surgeries’ operating capacity has been reduced and some are triaging patients according to their level of need and risk.

If you would like to see your dentist, it is advisable to contact them by phone or email to see if it is necessary for you to visit. For up-to-date advice on accessing dental care in the UK, see the NHS website.

What is the risk of catching coronavirus at the dentist?

Although they are assumed to be at high risk of contracting Covid-19, a recent study of nearly 2,200 US dentists found that fewer than 1% tested positive in June. Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser to the BDA, says dentists’ routine attention to infection control puts them at an advantage. “It’s almost second nature to us.”

A heightened potential risk of coronavirus transmission is in the use of instruments such as dental drills or ultrasonic scalers, which create a fine mist.

How are dentists adapting?

The profession is still adapting its procedures as more becomes known about how the virus spreads. For example, some dentists have switched to handheld tools that are slower, but create less spray. “Everything’s a bit of a compromise,” says Walmsley.

Access to services is improving. In England, the “fallow time” during which a treatment room must remain empty after any aerosol-generating procedure was recently reduced from an hour to 15-20 minutes (depending on ventilation), enabling dentists to see more patients.

What can I do to care for my teeth while I can’t get to a dentist?

“The majority of dental problems are preventable,” says Walmsley. Brushing your teeth in the morning and at night, for two minutes each time, will generally be enough to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Studies have shown, however, that people brush for an average of 43 seconds. “Four minutes a day is not a lot to ask,” says Dr Nigel Carter, the chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation.

Man showing children how to brush teeth
We should be brushing our teeth for two minutes twice a day. Photograph: 10’000 Hours/Getty Images

What kind of toothpaste should I use?

Any toothpaste with fluoride will do. Not only does it help to prevent tooth decay, but it slows down the rate of progression of any existing decay. Carter is concerned by the increasing availability of “natural” toothpastes without fluoride. Water fluoridation is not widespread in the UK, “so we really do need that protection”, he says.

Is it a good idea to switch to an electric toothbrush?

What you brush with is less important than brushing. Walmsley says a manual toothbrush is just as effective as a powered one if you brush for two minutes, twice a day. Some electric toothbrushes, however, have a timer – or even an app – to help you to be more thorough. “I can say from personal experience that it’s moved me from 1.5 minutes to 2 minutes,” says Carter of his electric toothbrush.

How often should I replace my toothbrush?

Dentists recommend replacing your toothbrush or brush head every three months. Very few people do. “As a nation, we use 1.2, 1.3 heads a year,” says Carter. “There are a lot of very old, scraggy toothbrushes out there.”

Does brushing your teeth reduce your coronavirus risk?

Martin Addy, emeritus professor of dentistry at the University of Bristol, has argued that more frequent brushing should be promoted alongside hand-washing to protect against coronavirus, as the antimicrobial agents in toothpaste and mouthwash reduce mouth bacteria.

A link with brushing has not yet been substantiated, but last week a Cardiff University study found “promising signs” that mouthwash may help to kill coronavirus. Further research into how oral hygiene might factor into reducing coronavirus risk is under way.

What else can I do apart from brushing thoroughly?

If you already floss regularly, stick with it. If you have yet to make it a habit, pick up some interdental brushes, which are easier to use than string floss. Interdental cleaning is especially important if you have a history of gum disease. Do it before you brush.

What else should I be mindful of?

“Being conscious of what you’re eating and when is also vital for a healthy mouth,” says Nyree Whitley, group clinical director for the the dental care provider mydentist. Many people have been consuming more sugar and alcohol during the pandemic, which is detrimental to oral health over a prolonged period. Whitley suggests limiting snacks and consuming sugar only as part of a meal.

Floss before you brush.
Floss before you brush. Photograph: PeopleImages/Getty Images

My gums bleed after brushing and flossing. Should I be worried?

People can be put off by this, especially when starting a new oral care regimen, but Carter’s advice is to persevere. “It’s not an indication you’re brushing too hard: it probably means you haven’t been brushing well enough.” The bleeding indicates some level of gum disease, and will probably stop as your gums become healthier.

Whitley says that dentists reported patients’ gum disease had got worse in the months between the first lockdown and practices reopening mid-year: “It’s a good reminder of just how quickly gum disease can worsen.”

Can I replicate a professional hygienist’s clean at home?

This is “straying into DIY dentistry,” says Walmsley. Even with his expertise, he knows better than to attempt dentistry on himself. “You could easily get yourself into trouble,” he says. If there is visible plaque or tartar (calcified plaque) around the necks of your teeth, talk to your dentist about the possibility of booking in for a scale and polish.

I think I am grinding my teeth. What can I do?

This has reportedly become more prevalent during the pandemic, due to rising stress levels. If you know you are inclined to clench your jaw while concentrating or stressed during the day, becoming aware of it may be enough to break the habit, says Carter.

Sleep grinding, known as bruxism, is harder to tackle. You may not even know you do it unless you share a bed, but it can cause sleeplessness, facial pain and headaches. Your dentist will be able to tell if you are doing your teeth any damage, and suggest possible treatments.

How do I tell if I have a dental emergency?

Chipping a tooth, without any associated pain, is generally not an emergency, says Walmsley. If you have broken or lost a filling, crown or veneer, you can get an emergency repair kit from a chemist to tide you over until you can speak to your dentist. Toothache may be eased with paracetamol or ibuprofen.

“An urgent dental need could include facial swelling extending to the eye or neck, bleeding after an extraction that doesn’t stop, toothache that prevents eating or sleeping, or trauma that results in bleeding or fracturing,” says Whitley. In the UK, call your dentist on their emergency line, or call 111.

I have knocked out a tooth. What do I do?

This is also high priority: a knocked-out adult tooth can usually be reimplanted if a dentist can get to it quickly. “The longer the tooth is out of the mouth, the higher the chance is the body will reject it,” says Walmsley.

Holding the tooth by the crown, not the root, try to put it back into the hole in the gum. Bite down gently on a clean cloth to hold it in place. If the tooth does not go in easily, put it in a container of milk or saliva (adults could also hold it inside their cheek). “Don’t wash it under the tap – you want to keep all the little cells and bits of body around it,” says Walmsley. If you cannot find the tooth, still seek emergency care.

What else should I look out for?

The symptoms of mouth cancer can be “annoying but manageable”, warns Whitley, who suspects that, because people’s perception is that they have only a minor problem, they “are simply putting off getting help”. If you have mouth ulcers that do not heal within several weeks or unexplained, persistent lumps in the mouth or lymph glands (in the neck), contact your dentist or doctor.

I usually see my dentist twice a year. How concerned should I be by this break?

“For people who have been going on a regular basis and having little more than an examination, scale and polish, there’s really nothing to worry about,” says Carter. The profession has been seeking to extend the interval between check-ups for those healthier patients for the past 15 years as the rate of decay has reduced.

You should talk to your dentist about how often you need to see them, taking into account your patient history, says Carter. If you have good oral hygiene, you may need to go only once every two to three years. If your regimen is lacking, now is an ideal time to improve it, he says. The dentist is “not the repair shop that does everything for you – you’ve got to be in charge of your own oral health”.


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Thomasina Miers’ recipe for stuffed mushrooms with ‘nduja | Food

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’Nduja, the spicy, spreadable southern Italian meat condiment, has been embraced wholeheartedly in Britain – so much so that native pork producers are now making their own versions. It adds incredible flavour to other ingredients – in this case, mushrooms. The portobello mushrooms at my local market have been huge this year, and I love how retro it feels to stuff them – and how joyfully simple. Do try this at home.

Stuffed mushrooms with ’nduja

Crisp crumbs, meaty interior, rich, garlicky, umami juices: this is one supper you will be pleased to have tried.

Prep 15 min
Cook 35 min
Serves 4-6

7 large portobello mushrooms, wiped clean
2 tbsp olive oil
65g butter
1 medium onion
, peeled and finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small handful thyme, picked
50g ’nduja
2 large, ripe tomatoes
, roughly diced

For the breadcrumbs
125g stale bread, crusts removed, or panko breadcrumbs
Grated parmesan, to finish

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Break the stalks off six of the mushrooms and chop them up with the seventh mushroom. Heat the oil and a third of the butter, and saute the mushrooms, onion and fennel over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, seasoning well.

Add three of the garlic cloves, crushed, and the thyme, cook for a few minutes more, so the raw flavour of the garlic softens, then stir in the ’nduja and tomatoes. Simmer very gently, stirring from time to time, for another five to eight minutes, while you fry the breadcrumbs.

If you are using stale bread, whizz it up in a blender. Melt another third of the butter in a hot frying pan and add the crumbs (homemade or panko). Season well, add the last clove of garlic, again crushed, fry until golden and fragrant, then leave to cool a little.

Lay out the mushrooms on a baking sheet and top with the sauteed onion mix. Top with the crumbs, dot over the remaining butter, scatter over a small handful of grated parmesan, to taste, and roast for about 15 minutes, until sizzling and golden. Eat with fresh bread and a salad, if you want.

And for the rest of the week …

Stuff any leftover mushrooms inside a crisp baguette to give steak sandwiches a run for their money. Melt leftover ’nduja into sauteed onions for a simple pasta sauce, add to a sauce for mussels or use in a stuffing for pork.


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‘People are more in control of their working day’: how lockdown changed the way we use our time | Fast master

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Female student studying and listening to music at home






People perform better when they have control of their working day.
Photograph: damircudic/Getty Images

Lockdown changed our sense of space as our worlds shrunk to the confines of our homes. But it also messed with our sense of time, with the monotony of our days making them feel longer.

Even our most basic units of time sometimes seemed to change. Where we’d once typically divided our days into one-hour or half-hour blocks, some of us instead found ourselves scheduling in shorter snippets of time. Instead of sitting through drawn-out, boring boardroom meetings or labouring over lengthy tasks in our manager’s line of sight, many of us found ourselves working more flexibly, flipping between tasks at a faster rate thanks to the sudden merging of our work and home lives and the increased autonomy it affords us.

In short, many people have shifted to a new normal that involves filling bite-size units of time with bite-size tasks and activities.

Studies have indicated that during periods of ongoing stress and anxiety, the brain’s prefrontal cortex (responsible for our ability to focus on tasks) is significantly weakened. But a recent report from the American management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group found that 75% of employees reported being able to maintain or even improve productivity levels in certain tasks during the first months of the pandemic.

So could the shifts in our scheduling patterns mean we’re becoming more efficient in our work and in our day-to-day lives? Jane Piper, an organisational psychologist and business coach, thinks there are significant benefits to our new way of doing things. “People are more in control of their working day now, and we perform better when we have autonomy. Our days are more flexible to better integrate work and home lives, which leads to an increase in productivity and reduction in stress,” she says.

Taking responsibility for our own schedules also means there is likely to be a reduction in presenteeism, with employees no longer putting in unnecessary “face time” just to show that they’re working. “Working from home means managers have to trust people to do the work, even when they can’t see them,” says Piper. “It changes the question from: ‘Were they present at their desk?’ to ‘Did they produce what was required by the deadline?’ A real upside of the new working landscape is what we deliver, rather than when we deliver.” Of course, it won’t be the case for everyone, she says. “For some, it has been replaced by a digital version, with managers scheduling constant meetings in a bid to force staff to be ‘present’.”

David Ogilvie, who runs The Resilience Development Company, which trains and coaches organisations to optimise performance and productivity, says: “Humans just aren’t meant to focus for long periods – brains are most productive in ‘focused sprints’ compared with ‘marathons’.”

In the programmes Ogilvie runs, clients are advised to work for no more than 90 minutes and then rest for 20 minutes. “That might mean setting 90-minute chunks in your diary before breaking or switching to an easier task for the next 20,” Ogilvie says. “There are many variations out there, but the principle is always the same: watch for signs of energy flagging and then reset and start again.”

However, working in shorter bursts doesn’t mean multitasking. “Switching between tasks and multitasking is a feature of modern life, amplified by the pandemic,” says Ogilvie. “But this behaviour could be working against you – studies show that we can lose productivity if we multitask because our brain is switching focus.”

This distinction is key – and arguably explains why we can feel more productive when engaging in activity in short bursts, but less productive if we’re flitting between wildly different short-burst activities. It’s worth bearing this in mind whenever you want to make the most of handy, short-burst formats, such as the wealth of instructional videos on social media platforms. Short is good, but if you’re looking to learn a new skill or knowhow, focusing on that one subject or topic is also important. You could call it scrolling with intent.

So how do you retain the benefits of short bursts while avoiding the trap of multitasking?

Gemma Ray, a productivity expert and author of Self Discipline: A How-To Guide to Stop Procrastination and Achieve Your Goals in 10 Steps, suggests batching similar tasks to improve efficiency, and timing regular tasks to avoid falling prey to Parkinson’s law – the idea that work expands to fill the time available.

Minimising distractions is also key. “A study by the University of California states that it takes the average person 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back ‘in the zone’ once disrupted,” she says. “For some, working from home means less distractions in terms of colleagues or unnecessary meetings, which enables us to be much more productive.” Though, of course, others might fall into the unluckier bracket of domestic distractions, with children storming their 10am brainstorm or neighbours renovating their kitchen.

Explore the world of TikTok and discover the joy of learning new things in shorter bursts. What will you #LearnOnTikTok?


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TV style icons of 2020: Michael Jordan’s sartorial slam dunk | Television

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The Last Dance, the Netflix show about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, scored 24 million viewers around the world within a month of its April release. An audience held captive by lockdown almost certainly drove those numbers up, but still, that is a lot of eyeballs for a documentary about basketball games that happened 23 years ago.

Which makes sense when you realise that The Last Dance isn’t really a sports documentary at all, but a blockbuster superhero movie, spun out over 10 instalments, just like Marvel do them. The Last Dance turned Jordan from a sports icon into a superhero, and it did it in part by rebooting his pre-athleisure 90s look as a costume.

Superheroes have to look the part. Without the lurid 70s tricolour T-shirt, Superman is just Clark Kent with wings. Batman doesn’t even have any superpowers, but his look and accessories have always been so on point (the mask! the car!) that fans barely noticed that he couldn’t fly or walk through walls without a gadget to assist him.

‘The suits were there to make the point that Jordan was no sporting journeyman ...’ Jordan on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 1997.
‘The suits were there to make the point that Jordan was no sporting journeyman …’ Jordan on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 1997. Photograph: NBCUniversal/Getty

Jordan’s sneakers are his Batmobile. When Nike launched the Air Jordan 1s in 1984, it predicted sales of $3m; the shoes banked $126m. Brand Jordan was born, a Nike division in its own right, and with it the mythology of Jordan as not just a basketball court legend but a hero. With serendipitous timing, the Dior designer Kim Jones last year unveiled an ultra high-end luxury homage to the thinking sneakerhead’s favourite trainer, with his handmade-in-Italy limited edition Air Dior. The March 2020 launch date was postponed due to the pandemic; by the time they went on sale in July, The Last Dance had turbocharged the Jordan hype. Even with a £1,800 price tag, these shoes were harder to get hold of than Dorothy’s ruby slippers.

The original Nike Air Jordans were red, white and black, to match the Chicago Bulls uniform. But the resulting Jordan mythology soon soared way above the basketball court and slam-dunked their namesake into popular culture. Jordan became a larger-than-life character and a visual brand, mapping out a master plan that has been followed ever since, by athletes including Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Every great fashion brand is defined by a signature shape, and Jordan is no exception. Dior had the New Look, Chanel had the boxy skirt suit – and Jordan had the supersized silhouette. Basketball worships height – Jordan is 6ft 5in, and in his prime he could jump to bring his head level with the 10ft-high rim of the hoop. The aesthetic of the classic shorts-and-vest is oversized and airy. Jordan brought this height and volume into his spectacular off-duty wardrobe, which, in the 90s, revolved around oversized power tailoring and shiny leisurewear. The suits were there to make the point that Jordan was no sporting journeyman, but a bona fide business mogul. The quilted bomber jackets, the diamond hoop earring, the signature beret. This was the 90s and celebrities came larger than life.

Nike Air Jordan V, originally released in 1990.
Nike Air Jordan V, originally released in 1990. Photograph: Granger/Rex/Shutterstock

Jordan wore his suit jackets extra wide across the shoulder, and extra long. What fits as a jacket on Jordan would be an overcoat on almost everyone else – a neat reminder that he is no mere mortal. His trousers were pleated for extra fullness and worn belted and high-waisted for added length. It is not just the sporting footage that showcases his elongated frame in The Last Dance. When he is filmed sitting down, his knees rise into the foreground of every shot. Set against the popcorny palette of televised sports events, where every available angle flashes advertising in the national colours of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, Jordan’s suits are notable for their muted colours. He wears taupe and stone-grey, tones that in the 90s helped him stand out against his environment – and which in 2020 make him look eerily contemporary, like a supersized Kanye West.

With his cartoonish swagger and a vintage leisurewear wardrobe that could unite irony-loving millennials and nostalgia-soaked generation X, in a year where big blockbusters were off the cards, Jordan was a stand-in superhero. And why not? After all, this man could fly.


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