Why optimum oral health can prevent severe complications from covid-19

June 29, 2020

In a recent article published in the British Dental Journal, Dr V. Samsoon presented her research on the link between poor oral health and severe complications from Covid-19. The aim of our Drayton dentist Vasiliki  Stamatoukou is to present you with the most important data from this research.

Even though Covid-19 is a viral infection it is the presence of pathogenic bacteria (bad bacteria that cause disease)that is associated with severe complications with the virus, like pneumonia and acute respiratory syndrome.

Why are pathogenic oral bacteria important?

Our mouths include a healthy amount of bacteria, called microbiome, which normally can be exchanged between our mouth and our lungs.

When we have poor oral health, pathogenic bacteria start to accumulate in our mouths and destroy that healthy balance. These bacteria can also be breathed into our lungs.  

One way these bacteria make us more vulnerable is by increasing our susceptibility to viral infections.

Furthermore, when we are not healthy or we are infected by a viral infection they start to proliferate and create what is called a bacteria superinfection. This further compromises our already burdened immune system and in that way creates severe complications like pneumonia or acute respiratory syndrome.

Some other studies have shown an interaction between periodontitis - a severe form of gum disease caused by pathogenic oral bacteria - and the chronic diseases of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

As you are aware patients suffering from these diseases are at a high risk of severe complications from Covid-19. Studies show that patients who fall into the above categories have increased levels of bacteria present in periodontal disease.

Also, patients with periodontal disease have a three times higher risk of developing diabetes, 20% increased risk of developing hypertension and 25% increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Periodontitis has been also found to cause systemic inflammation (the generalised response of our body to combat a threat like a virus or disease) into our body in the same way Covid-19 does.

Another finding of several studies is that people with periodontal disease and poor oral hygiene have increased risk of respiratory infections.

  • A reduction of periodontal disease can lead to a reduction of the risk of severe pneumonia.
  • Improved oral health halves the incidents of pneumonia-related deaths in patients over 70.
  • One in 10 deaths from pneumonia could be prevented by improving oral health.

Advice to our patients at home

The hygiene services at Drayton Dental Care will restart at a specified date in July and we will be prioritising those patients most at risk initially. Until then here is some advice for tackling periodontal disease at home.

  • Change your toothbrush head every 3 to 4 months.
  • If you are Covid-19 infected you should change your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head immediately. Toothbrushes should also be changed more regularly at this time as they tend to retain a high viral load.
  • High risk category patients should be prescribed a high-content fluoride toothpaste. These prescription only toothpastes help to prevent decay and are very helpful for sensitivity. If a you are vulnerable or shielded, we can deliver this toothpaste to you.
  • Denture hygiene: Chemical and mechanical cleaning is advised on a nightly basis.
  • Health care workers working at the frontline of the pandemic are advised by Professor Addy of Bristol University to brush their teeth before wearing PPE. Doing so can help to curb the spread of the virus since it can be transmitted through saliva.

Doctors around the globe have taken a more holistic approach to patients’ overall health over the past decade. The recent pandemic has strengthened this approach.

If you’ve been advised that you are at stage 3 or 4 in terms of periodontal disease, and you wish to regain the health of your mouth, anticipate the necessity to be seen regularly, especially if you are to undergo non-surgical periodontal treatment with our team.

Optimum oral health can play a vital role in our overall health and especially for patients in high risk categories in preventing complications from Covid-19.

If you have any concerns and would like to speak to one of the dentists at our School Road dental practice, please email info@draytondental.co.uk and we will schedule a telephone consultation for you.

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