Simple oral hygiene could help reduce COVID severity

Tooth Brush

BIRMINGHAM, England — New research suggests that COVID-19 could move directly into the bloodstream from saliva and find its way to the lungs, especially in those who experience gum disease.

Evidence shows that blood vessels in the lungs, rather than airways, are affected initially in COVID-19 lung disease with high concentrations of the virus in saliva and periodontitis (gum disease) associated with increased risk of death.

Researchers at University of Birmingham proposed that dental plaque accumulation and periodontal inflammation further intensify the likelihood of the 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 plaque build-up.

In the their findings, the international team of researchers from the U.K., South Africa and the United States noted of emerging evidence that specific ingredients of some cheap and widely available mouthwash products were highly effective at inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Simple oral hygiene measures, including using specific mouthwash products, could help lower the risk of transmission of the virus from the mouth to the lungs in those with COVID-19, and help prevent severe infection.

“Gum disease makes the gums leakier, allowing microorganisms to enter into the blood,” said Iain Chapple, co-author and professor of periodontology at the University of Birmingham. “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.”

Their new model is based on the mouth providing a breeding ground for the virus to thrive, with any breach in oral immune defenses making it easier for the virus to enter the bloodstream. Moving from blood vessels in the gums, the virus would pass 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,” said Chapple.