It is a known fact now that besides being a respiratory infection, Covid-19 also affects many other organs and parts of the body. But what is its connection with the oral cavity? And just how damaging is it?
Geriatric dentist and implantologist Dr Richa Vats says researchers have noted that the coronavirus can enter the lungs from saliva. That it moves directly from the mouth into the bloodstream, especially if the individual is suffering from a gum disease.
“The oral cavity is a potential reservoir for respiratory pathogens. Viral respiratory infections predispose patients to bacterial superinfections. It was found that severe Covid-19 cases were significantly associated with secondary bacterial infections.
“Simple measures like careful toothbrushing and interdental cleaning to reduce plaque build-up, along with specific mouthwashes, or even salt water rinses to reduce gingival inflammation, could help decrease the viral load in saliva, which will prevent bacteremia, which reduces the chance of deterioration to severe Covid-19,” she explains.
Oral health and hygiene
The doctor further says that C-reactive protein (CRP) is a marker of hyper-inflammation, which shows that “poor oral health was correlated to increased values of CRP and delayed [Covid] recovery period”. “In addition, periodontitis as an inflammatory disease may encourage the liver to generate CRP. These increased levels of CRP may be linked to the overproduction of inflammatory cytokines, which could be aggravated by poor oral hygiene.”
According to Dr Vats, it has been verified that periodontopathic bacteria were present in patients with severe Covid-19.
What you can do about it
1. Drink more water: The mask causes dehydration, which leads to dryness of mouth and increased mouth breathing. It causes bad breath. So, don’t wait until you are thirsty. Breathe through your nose.
2. Increase the antioxidant intake: Add multiple servings of green leafy vegetables, bright coloured fruits and vegetables. They provide necessary nutrients and minerals to oral tissues.
3. Food choices: There is evidence of demineralized surfaces due to increased snacking and consumption of alcohol and sugary products as a result of home work environment. Consciously choose healthier snacks like carrot sticks instead of chips and candies. Tooth sensitivity appears to be at an all-time high, and is an indirect response to increase in acidic dietary choices, bruxism, and frequent alcohol consumption.
4. 3-minute oral hygiene: Always use a fluoridated toothpaste. Devote at least two minutes to your brushing routine and a minute to floss with interdental floss/water or air flosser/proxa brush to clean the interproximal surfaces. Don’t forget to clean your tongue and palate. Also massage your gums regularly and do warm saline rinses.
5. Don’t overindulge: Overzealous brushing or excessive use of tongue scraper can deplete the good bacteria. Oral probiotics can help repopulate the oral cavity with beneficial bacteria during sleep when salivary flow is reduced.
6. Biannual routine check-up: It’s imperative you go for dental checkups twice a year for your preventive and therapeutic treatment. This will not only preserve your oral tissues, but also help prevent diseases. Patients should not delay seeking preventive dental care.