With the COVID-19 pandemic still a huge problem around the world, there are many people looking to find ways to reduce their risk of catching the virus, and looking to lessen its severity if they do catch it. Vaccines, hand washing, mask-wearing, and social distancing are all doing their parts to help slow and reduce the spread, but for those who develop COVID-19, what can be done to prevent some of the worst symptoms?
For the most part, it is still unknown why some people experience harsher symptoms than others. Many times it is due to the patient’s age or health, and now a new study has found that oral health may be a contributing factor to more serious COVID-19 symptoms.
The study was conducted by a team in the United States, South Africa, and the United Kingdom and published in the Journal of Oral Medicine and Dental Research found that those suffering from poor oral health may be at higher risk for some of the more dangerous symptoms of COVID-19, including COVID-19 lung disease.
The problem is periodontitis or periodontal disease. This disease is generally caused by poor oral health habits including not brushing or flossing enough, and by having excessive tartar buildup at the gum line from not having regular dental cleanings. When a person has periodontal disease, bacteria accumulate at the gum line, entering the bloodstream through the gums. This bacteria can then travel through the blood to the heart and lungs, causing many problems including heart disease and a heart infection called infective carditis, which can be fatal if the patient already has a heart condition.
But now, researchers have found that this same bacteria may be responsible for worsening COVID-19, by the virus traveling to the blood vessels of the lungs through the periodontitis infected saliva.
The good news here is that researchers believe that using over-the-counter mouthwash or even gargling with salt water can help not only protect the gums but block the COVID-19 virus as it enters the saliva. This can help cut your risk of infection entirely or at least hopefully lessen its severity.
Remember: it’s never too late to start caring for your teeth and gums. Just pick up a toothbrush, brush twice a day for a minimum of two minutes each time, and floss between every tooth at least once a day (preferably at night). Gargle with mouthwash for the recommended amount of time on the bottle before or after brushing, to loosen plaque and freshen the breath.