At our biometric dental practice in Denver, Dr. McGinty works to better inform her patients about how interconnected our oral health is with our overall health. Decades worth of research has found clear connections linking our oral health with a variety of chronic health conditions that include diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. Now, British researchers have found a link between poor oral hygiene and the severity of COVID-19 related severe acute respiratory syndrome.
The results of this recent study were published in the British Dental Journal.
What Did the Study Examine?
So far, researchers have identified several risk factors linked to severe cases of COVID-19 and the complications that the virus can cause. While the majority of patients infected by the virus recover without any long term complications, some require hospitalization, oxygen supplementation, and ventilation.
Some of the risk factors identified by researchers for more severe COVID cases include high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The research team wrote that the primary complications of COVID include “blood clots, pneumonia, sepsis, septic shock, and acute respiratory distress syndrome.” These complications are primarily seen among those with a bacterial overload, according to the research team.
How Does Bacteria Impact COVID-19 Cases?
Researchers hypothesize that a connection may exist between a coronavirus infection and what’s known as “bacterial load.” Researchers attempted to explore whether high levels of bacteria or bacterial superinfections and complications from bacterial infections like sepsis, pneumonia, and respiratory distress syndrome could be linked to more severe and potentially deadly cases of COVID-19.
What’s COVID’s Connection to Oral Health?
Researchers examined the complications of COVID-19 experienced among those with poor oral health and gum disease. The oral microbiome, or the amount of bacteria in an individual’s mouth, was examined and its connection with COVID outcome was studied. The researchers wrote, “We explored the connection between high bacterial load in the mouth and post-viral complications, and how improving oral health may reduce the risk of complications from COVID-19.”
The researcher determined that during a lung infection, a risk of aspirating the oral secretions into the lungs becomes possible, which could lead to an infection. Some of the bacteria present in the mouth that could cause an infection to develop include Porphyromonas gingivalis, Fusobacterium nucleatum, and Prevotella intermedia.” All of these types of bacteria are commonly found in the mouths of individuals experiencing poor oral health.
The researchers explained that gum disease is one of the most prevalent causes of harmful oral bacteria. These types of bacteria lead to the formation of cytokines that can be detected in the saliva and can reach the lungs, causing an infection. Based on these findings, the researcher team wrote, “inadequate oral hygiene can increase the risk of inter-bacterial exchanges between the lungs and the mouth, increasing the risk of respiratory infection and potentially post-viral bacterial complications.”
What Did the Study Find?
In covering the results of their study, researchers wrote, “Good oral hygiene has been recognized as a means to prevent airway infections in patients, especially in those over the age of 70.” Individuals with periodontal disease have a 25 percent higher risk for heart disease, 3 times the risk of getting diabetes, and 20 percent higher risk of developing high blood pressure. Each of these diseases are a known risk factor for developing a severe case of COVID-19.
Researchers concluded that 20 percent of patient with COVID-19 progress to severe illness with high levels of “inflammatory markers, bacteria, and lymphocyte count.” They noted that the oral microbiome of COVID-19 patients could be a factor in how severe a patient’s case of the virus becomes.
That the four essential risk factors of COVID-19, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity, are all linked to and associated with poor oral hygiene should not be discounted. While the full association between COVID-19 and an individual’s oral health has yet to be established, researchers recommended patients maintain or improve their oral health during the pandemic to reduce bacterial buildup in the mouth and any potential risk of a bacterial superinfection from developing.
Your Oral Health Matters
At our biometric dental practice in Denver, Dr. McGinty understands the connection that exists between our oral and overall health. As we all attempt to better protect our health from outside forces, it still remains important that we don’t lose sight of just how much our oral health matters.
If you have any questions about COVID’s relationship to your oral health, feel free to ask any member of our team during your next visit to our biometric dentistry in Denver.