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The recent COVID-19 outbreak has shown us how quickly things can change. Are the doomsday preppers really that wrong? What happens if the apocalypse really hits? Here are a few dental guidelines to keep in mind!

People have always been obsessed with doomsday — the end of the world as we know it. Even now, some eagerly await it, others try to predict when it will happen, and then, there are those who tirelessly prep for it in the hope to cheat death when it strikes. The rest of us may just be a little scared. 

Not a single major religion is left out — they all have some concept of some sort of total destruction, usually seen as divine retribution for human sin, a way to wipe the slate clean, and a new hope for a better world built by the chosen survivors.

Each apocalyptic event has it’s own heroes — leaders who guide the remainder of humanity to a more virtuous path. Noah is, of course, the most famous of these. We all know the story. During the Genesis floods, God asked Noah to save the best samples of each living being on this earth, and protect them in his ark so that, once the floods receded, there could be a new dawn.

Modern-day humans have their own versions of Noah’s ark. The most well-known among them is the seed vault at Svalbard in Norway, which contains the best specimens of all the varieties of seeds available in the world. Stored in freezing temperatures deep down a mountain in a remote location, the goal is to give humans a chance to regrow their primary requirement — food. 

Ticking time bomb: Are we really close to an apocalypse?

A group of scientists called the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have been maintaining their famous Doomsday Clock for over seven decades now. With every war, every technology that poses a threat to the world, and every pandemic, it inches closer to midnight, when the world will be destroyed. 

As of January 2020, the Doomsday Clock has hit 100 seconds to midnight — closer than it's ever been since its inception in 1947. Nuclear weapons and climate change are, the clock's guardians say, the two biggest threats. Even online disinformation made the list of the gravest dangers we face today, however. 

The emergence of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has shown us how quickly everything can change, and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has warned that the world is dealing with this pandemic poorly

Crises always get us thinking about what the world would really be like if and when, as doomsday preppers say, "sh*t hits the fan", and COVID-19 is no different. What would happen to your teeth after the end of the world as we know it? 

Would there be dentistry after the apocalypse hits?

Let us for a moment imagine that society as we know it has collapsed — gone are the days of reliable electricity, people now have imminent priorities beyond just looking good, and money is no longer a thing.

Dentists are still going to be in demand, because dental problems aren't disappearing until people do. The focus of dentistry will shift to treatment rather than prevention. Teeth that cause pain will be removed for instant relief, because the equipment required to carry out intricate procedures is not going to be available.

Basic dental instruments that can be used without electricity will likely remain popular. Local anesthesia, the godsend that has made dentistry bearable, will be in huge demand and short supply. Once that runs out, it's back to natural medicinal herbs to help dull the pain.

Surviving an apocalypse is not for the weak-hearted or the weak-bodied. With all the luxuries that have slowly become necessities in your life gone in seconds, you are left with no other option but to toil hard for even the basic requirements of food and water. A healthy body will go a long way.

How will you take care of your teeth post-apocalypse?

Well, you won't have the internet to guide you through tooth-cleaning instructions after an apocalypse. All you can do is rely on ancient wisdom and use what our forefathers did to clean their teeth. 

You can try the Egyptian way of mixing ash and natural gum, or the Roman way of powdering burned eggshells and rubbing them on your teeth. You can also try the Indian way of using a toothbrush-sized twig of the Indian Lilac tree to scrub your teeth and tongue — if you have one around, that is!

Bad breath is unlikely to disappear as a social embarrassment just because the world has collapsed, and this is where good old mint plants will come to the rescue. Search for a few leaves of mint and chew on them, and you’ll be "minty fresh" in no time!

Dentures are actually one of the few dental tools that can be fabricated without much electricity or power. Since they are also easily repairable by skilled professionals, they may just become very popular in a post-apocalyptic society. Their drawback is going to be chewing efficiently, because they are not really designed for foraging in the wild! 

People with dental implants are going to be ecstatic that they invested their time and money in them. Implants, for as long as they last, will function almost as well as natural teeth and allow a full range of chewing capabilities. 

How will good dental health help you survive the apocalypse?

When the apocalypse strikes, you will have far more important thoughts on your mind than your dental health, unless, of course, it gets so bad you can no longer ignore it.

Imagine you are in the middle of a great flood when you start having unbearable pain in one of your teeth. You knew you had a cavity for a long time, but you just ignored it and took painkillers, thinking "I will go to the dentist the next time it hurts". The cavity is now so deep that it has infected your tooth. No medicine will relieve the pain! And your good old dentist, who has been with you through all your dental emergencies, will be too busy managing their own survival (if they were lucky enough to have scraped through!).

Post-apocalypse, your food habits are bound to see some turbulence. Gone will be the days of super-soft bread and fast food. No melt-in-your-mouth sausages or fall-off-the-bone ribs. Instead, what you’ll have to contend with is whatever bare minimum you manage to rustle up. Food hastily cooked on an open fire. How are you going to eat if you have loose teeth, or no teeth at all? You are going to need all the teeth you have if you want to ward off the risk of reflux and malnutrition.

A final word

Our society is fundamentally fragile, and while we may feel we have mastered mother nature, it only takes a virus as infective as COVID-19 to bring everything crashing down. As many scientists and researchers have noted, it may be a question of "when" rather than "if". The moral of the story, is, I guess, to have your teeth looked at — and, where needed, fixed — while you still can.