WEDNESDAY, April 21, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Keep flossing: A study just coming out suggests that your gum disease may increase your chances of serious COVID-19.
Previous research has shown that blood vessels, not airways, are initially affected by COVID lung disease. Now, new research reveals that high concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 virus in saliva and gum disease (periodontitis) are associated with an increased risk of death from COVID.
This current study reports that SARS-CoV-2 can enter the lungs through saliva, with the virus moving straight from the mouth into the bloodstream, especially in people with diseased gums.
“This model can help us understand why some people develop COVID-19 lung disease and others do not,” said study co-author Dr. Iain Chapple, Professor of Periodontology at the University of Birmingham in England. “It could also change the way we manage the virus – by researching cheap or even free oral treatments and, ultimately, saving lives.”
As the virus enters the bloodstream, it can travel through the jugular and thoracic veins to reach the heart before being pumped into the blood vessels of the lungs, according to the researchers.
Accumulation of dental plaque and gingivitis further increase the likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 reaching the lungs and causing a more serious infection, the researchers said.
Chapple explained that gum disease makes the gums “more permeable”, allowing microorganisms to enter the blood. Careful brushing and flossing to reduce plaque buildup, as well as special mouthwashes or even salt water rinses can help reduce the concentration of the virus in saliva, he said.
These steps could “help alleviate the development of lung disease and reduce the risk of worsening to severe COVID-19,” Chapple said in a university news release.
The findings were published on April 20 in Journal of Oral Medicine and Dental Research.
The authors noted that there is new evidence that certain ingredients of some inexpensive and widely available mouthwashes are very effective in inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“Studies are urgently needed to further explore this new model, but in the meantime, daily oral hygiene and plaque control will not only improve oral health and well-being, but could also be a lifeline in the context of a pandemic,” Chapple said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information on oral health and COVID-19.
SOURCE: University of Birmingham, press release, April 20, 2021