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For people who do not take care of their oral health, an increased risk of severity from COVID-19 may be likely. A new study has found a connection between plaque build-up in the mouth and gum disease allowing the virus to thrive and move quicker and easier into the bloodstream with the risk of death from the novel coronavirus increased.
New research warns those suffering with gum disease could be at higher risk due to the virus passing into people’s lungs from salvia.
The virus is known to move directly from the mouth and into the blood stream and warns those suffering with periodontist to be at an increased risk of death.
Evidence shows that blood vessels of the lungs, rather than airways are affected initially in COVID-19 lung disease with high concentrations of the virus in saliva.
The researchers proposed that dental plaque accumulation and periodontal inflammation further intensify the likelihood of the SARS-CoV-2 virus reaching the lungs and causing more severe cases of the infection.
Experts say this discovery could make effective oral healthcare a potentially lifesaving action – recommending that the public take simple, but effective, daily steps to maintain oral hygiene and reduce factors contributing to gum disease, such as the build-up of plaque.
The team of researchers, from the UK, South Africa and the United States, published their findings in the Journal of Oral Medicine and Dental Research. They note emerging evidence that specific ingredients of some cheap and widely available mouthwash products are highly effective at inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
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The theory pertains that bacteria in the mouth may also play a role in bacterial superinfections and complications such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome and sepsis.
Researchers point to a connection between COVID-19 complications and oral health and periodontal disease as the comorbidities at higher risk of COVID-19 complications due to the imbalances in the oral microbiome.
“This model may help us understand why some individuals develop COVID-19 lung disease and others do not. It could also change the way we manage the virus – exploring cheap or even free treatments targeted at the mouth and, ultimately, saving lives,” said Iain Chapple, professor of periodontology at the University of Birmingham.
He continued: “Gum disease makes the gums leakier, allowing microorganisms to enter into the blood.
“Simple measures – such as careful toothbrushing and interdental brushing to reduce plaque build-up, along with specific mouthwashes, or even saltwater rinsing to reduce gingival inflammation – could help decrease the virus’ concentration in saliva and help mitigate the development of lung disease and reduce the risk of deterioration to severe COVID-19.”
The mouth is a breeding ground for the virus to thrive, with any breach in oral immune defences making it easier for the virus to enter the bloodstream.
The virus moves from blood vessels in the gums and passes through neck and chest veins reaching the heart before being pumped into pulmonary arteries and small vessels in the lung base and periphery.
“Studies are urgently required to further investigate this new model, but in the meantime daily oral hygiene and plaque control will not only improve oral health and wellbeing but could also be lifesaving in the context of the pandemic,” advised Professor Chapple.
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