Studies have suggested that increased COVID-19 severity may be linked to poor oral health status. People with bad dental problems can end up with more severe symptoms if they catch coronavirus, and are more likely to be hospitalised, research has revealed. Numerous studies have already reported good oral care may reduce the risk of viral acute respiratory diseases.
This research, published in the British Dental Journal, finds that Covid patients who also have gum disease are 3.5 times as likely to be admitted to intensive care compared to those without.
This group of people are also 4.5 times as likely to need to be put on a ventilator and nine times as likely to die with coronavirus.
Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth, and is mainly caused by bacteria from plaque build-up.
The NHS says that intense gum inflammation also affects the bloodstream, and is believed to slowly damage blood vessels in the heart and brain over a long period of time.
The study authors state: “The incidence of severe COVID-19 illness was significantly observed in participants with poor oral health status.”
As well as the severity of COVID-19 symptoms significantly increasing in patients with poor oral health status, symptoms of severity “significantly decreased” in those with good oral health status.
The recovery period “was significantly delayed” to around six weeks in those with poor oral health, while patients with good oral health had a faster recovery.
It notes that several risk factors for COVID-19 infection have already been recognised, such as ageing, diabetes, hypertension, immunodeficiency and cardiovascular diseases.
These findings are based on a cross-sectional study from a questionnaire with 308 Egyptian patients.
This included patients aged 19 to 55 years old, both male and females, and with confirmed positive COVID-19 PCR test results.
Those above 55 years of age were excluded as they are considered to be more prone to experiencing severe COVID-19.
The researchers concluded that their study provided some evidence that oral health could have a potential impact on the severity of COVID-19, though they suggested the correlation is limited by the study design and a more substantial research project is required.
This is partially because the research team were unable to perform a dental examination due to quarantine restrictions and so a substitute oral health questionnaire was used.
These results may seem surprising, but actually bad oral hygiene has been linked with making many other diseases more severe.
The NHS notes gum disease may increase your risk of a plethora of other health complications.
These can include stroke, diabetes and heart disease, as well as problems in pregnancy and dementia.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, explains on the NHS website: “The link between oral health and overall body health is well documented and backed by robust scientific evidence.
“Despite this, only one in six people realises that people with gum disease may have an increased risk of stroke or diabetes. And only one in three is aware of the heart disease link.”
Fortunately, brushing your teeth properly and looking after your gums can prevent and treat gum disease.
The NHS advises: “Follow a routine of brushing your teeth for a full two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, plus cleaning between your teeth with floss or interdental brushes.”