Oral Health and COVID-19

July 17, 2020
Avatar for Donald GriswoldDonald Griswold

With researchers scrambling to find a cure for the COVID-19 coronavirus, many are discussing what measures we can take to reduce our risk of contracting this devastating virus. While many communities have issued quarantines, stay-at-home orders and the wearing of masks in public places, this is only a temporary fix. In an effort to reduce the dangerous effects of the illness once it’s contracted, studies are focusing on how solid overall health can positively affect coronavirus. Now, a British team has found a link between the severity of the coronavirus and oral health.

Though the coronavirus can strike anyone at any age, how it affects certain demographics can vary wildly. Generally the healthier and younger you are, the better your prognosis, but there are still cases to the contrary. This may have to do with factors many never realized until now.

One such factor is oral health. Recently, a British team of researchers from the Centre for Nutrition Education & Lifestyle Management and Orthodontics with the Cambridge University Trust found that the worse a person’s oral health, the more severely coronavirus may affect them.

The study examined the link between oral bacteria and the coronavirus. According to researchers, when we breathe we may aspirate oral bacteria into our lungs. That bacteria can then cause lung infections such as Porphyromonas gingivalis, Fusobacterium nucleatum and Prevotella intermedia, which are linked to periodontitis, or gum disease. According to the study, when you have periodontitis, you run the risk of spreading bacteria between the mouth and the lungs, which in turn ups your risk of developing lung infections, and when you’re already fighting to breathe, this can be a deadly combination.

Dr. Kelley Mingus says all patients should work to prevent gum disease, even without the advent of the coronavirus, because gum disease ups our chances of developing other serious illnesses, including diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. This may also be another reason for the link between periodontal disease and the coronavirus.

“Gum disease is often linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity,” says Mingus. “These factors have also been shown to increase the severity of coronavirus in many patients.

“The important takeaway here is that maintaining our oral health could be key to preventing or reducing the symptoms of a lot of illnesses, so we really need to stay on top of brushing and flossing – especially right now during the pandemic.”