A recently published study in the California Dental Association Journal indicates that keeping your regular dental checkups during the COVID-19 pandemic could do more than just keep your breath minty. According to early research findings, regular dental maintenance could help prevent severe COVID-19 infections.
So, how can good dental health keep your respiratory system literally in fighting condition? Well, it all comes down to those tiny little buggers living in our mouths: oral bacteria. We don’t really like to think about them, but we all know they are there. Some of them are “good guys” and help fight off cavities and tooth decay; others are “bad guys” that spend their days rotting our teeth and making our breath, well, questionable.
And if you don’t like thinking about oral bacteria, then you’re going to like this next part even less. Hang in there. Remember, we’re talking about preventing severe COVID-19 infections, which have killed thousands and thousands of Americans since the pandemic emerged in the United States last March!
Anyway, according to this study, the oral bacteria that live in your mouth can actually increase your risk of a severe COVID-10 infection if you breathe them into your lungs, which happens fairly routinely since the stuff in your mouth can easily be aspirated into your respiratory system. Doctors have long known that poor dental health could contribute to inflammatory lung conditions, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and to higher risks of pneumonia in patients. It turns out that patients with periodontitis, often simply referred to as gum disease, tend to aspirate higher volumes of those oral bacteria and, as a result, are at a higher risk for severe COVID-19 infections and associated respiratory complications, such as pneumonia.
The scientists wrote, “Successful control of periodontal inflammation can be beneficial to the lungs, possibly decreasing the severity and risk of COVID-19 respiratory problems.” The research team recommended dentists use periodontal screening and treatments as preventative measures against COVID-19, much as they have already employed these screenings and treatments as protective measures for patients with pulmonary conditions.
The article also noted that two minutes of toothbrushing would likely be insufficient to protect high-risk periodontitis patients. The scientists recommended dentists work to identify these patients early, customize their oral hygiene routines, and take steps to “ensure timely reduction of inflammation.”
At Dr. Pat Crawford’s dental clinic, we will work with you to figure out the best way to keep your mouth happy and healthy. Just give us a call or visit our website at PatCrawfordDDS.com.