One of the reasons routine dental care is so important is because oral health and overall health are closely linked. Taking care of your teeth and gums benefits your entire body, not just your mouth—it can decrease systemic inflammation, prevent infection, and even lower blood sugar levels for patients with diabetes. As more research is published on COVID-19, we’re also beginning to see the ways in which oral health and the SARS-CoV-2 virus are linked.
Poor Oral Health and COVID-19 Testing
A study published in the journal Special Care in Dentistry found that COVID-19 testing may be inaccurate in patients with poor oral hygiene habits.
Doctors in Japan observed that some of their patients had clinically recovered from COVID-19, but testing continued to show viral shedding. They realized that the patients who tested positive even after recovering hadn’t brushed their teeth during their hospital stays; once they brushed their teeth and gargled, their tests began to come back negative.
Why is this important? In countries where COVID-19 patients are hospitalized or isolated until they’re no longer infectious, this knowledge can reduce their time spent in care facilities. It’s also a good reminder that the mouth can host harmful pathogens, another reason why proper oral hygiene is important.
Gum Disease and COVID-19
An international team of dental researchers found that patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are more likely to die of respiratory failure if they suffer from gum disease.
Gum disease causes the body to produce high levels of a harmful protein called interleukin. Patients with higher levels of interleukin have a greater risk of life-threatening respiratory problems, likely because the interleukin protein can spread to the lungs where it causes an inflammatory response.
Prior to this research, gum disease had already been linked to other lung disorders like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia, but the link to COVID-19 further highlights the impact that periodontitis has on the entire body. Although COVID-19 infection can’t be prevented by good oral hygiene, this study presents very strong evidence that it can lower the risk of death.
The Bottom Line
Many patients feel nervous about going to the dentist during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is understandable—we’re all trying to navigate this new world we’re living in and weigh the risks of our usual activities. Our office has strict safety protocols in place to protect our patients and our team members, so you can feel confident that every precaution is being taken on our end.
We believe that dental care is an essential service, particularly in light of this recent research. By keeping your gums and teeth healthy, you’re protecting yourself from serious COVID-19 complications and a whole host of other health issues. The risks of delaying needed dental care are much greater than the risk of getting infected with COVID-19 at the dentist’s office.
Schedule an Appointment
If you’ve been putting off routine dental care, it’s time to get back on track. To make an appointment with Dr. Jamrozek or learn more about the links between oral health and COVID-19, contact us at 973-728-3779 .