What is the link between oral health and COVID-19?
Our founders, Dr Mike Heffernan and Dr Toby Edwards-Lunn are two highly qualified dentists with over fifty years of experience between them. They've got some thoughts to share with you about the link between COVID-19 and your oral and dental health.
Dentistry.co.uk recently published an article, "Is there a link between COVID-19 and oral hygiene?" based on a report published in June 2020.
What does the report say?
Research has shown that 80% of patients in Intensive Care Units with severe complications of COVID-19 also suffered bacterial superinfections (aka oral health problems). COVID-19 is a virus, so those suffering the most from it have bacteria on their lungs too, not just COVID-19.
According to the report, ‘evidence has grown, over many years, from analysing influenza outbreaks, pneumonia, ventilator associate pneumonia and now COVID-19, that superinfections can complicate viral respiratory tract infections caused by oral (i.e. in the mouth) micro organisms. These superinfections are usually of bacteria origin’.
So, what does this mean?
Well, the authors had this to say: ‘this implies that oral hygiene may help prevent superinfection’ and that a ‘reduction in oral hygiene increases bacterial plaque and salivary bacterial counts’.
The figures say it all.
'Studies in the elderly in residential homes showed very high levels of plaque, root caries and denture stomatitis... so much so that it has been concluded that 10% (one in ten) of pneumonia related deaths in care homes could have been prevented by improving oral hygiene’.
Given that a substantial number of deaths from COVID-19 occur with the presence of bacterial oral micro-organisms (i.e. a superinfection), there are things you can do to protect yourself (and your loved ones), so you can avoid any oral health problems.
Firstly, we have all heard about the need to wash our hands regularly and for 20 seconds a time to the tune of Happy Birthday. Let's change it up a bit. The message of 'Improved Hand Hygiene’ could be extended to ‘Improved Hand and Oral Hygiene’. Maintaining good oral health will reduce the risk of superinfection and bacteria overload.
There is a direct link between oral health problems and systemic disease and respiratory bacterial infections, and with COVID-19 looking like it's going to stick around for a little while longer, this is why good oral health is more important now more than ever.