The COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions of people from all over the world for the past year. But even patients who are experiencing or have experienced COVID symptoms have still reported further complications.
As COVID is a respiratory virus in that it can mostly enter the body through the nose and mouth, it raises the question as to whether the severity of post-COVID complications results from the level of oral hygiene in the patient. In June, experts from the British Dental Journal posited that Yes, this could be the case.
Super-Infections and Super Bacteria
Bacterial super-infections have shown to be prominent in patients who have experienced a severe case of COVID-19. The study carried out by the British Dental Journal shows that over 80% of ICU patients carry remarkably high bacteria, and over 50% of patients who have died from COVID-19 and complications exhibit super bacterial infections.
Although COVID-19 has been proven to be a virus, it also comes with other complications based around the respiratory system. This includes pneumonia and acute respiratory distress. These complications share a link with bacterial superinfections, and these could be a result of poor oral hygiene.
The risk of an increase in super bacteria is likely whenever your regular oral functions are disrupted. This can result in bacterial plaque. Too much plaque will produce acids that attack tooth enamel, breaking down the tooth’s natural defences and increasing the risk of infections. In extreme cases, this can cause pneumonia, which is one of the causes of death associated with COVID-19.
Care home studies have shown that one in every ten deaths from pneumonia as a complication of COVID-19 could have been prevented if oral hygiene had been made a bigger priority.
Similarly, partial dentures can also increase plaque buildup, increasing oral bacteria and oral fungi. This bacteria poses a severe threat, which is why it is crucial to thoroughly clean your dentures if possible, removing them overnight to prevent a buildup of potentially fatal bacteria and super infections.
For hospitalized patients, especially those on a ventilator, it is even more crucial to monitor the levels of oral bacteria to reduce the risk of this bacteria multiplying and leading to infection by incubating complications. As these patients cannot carry out basic oral hygiene, the responsibility falls to the medical professionals on shift to increase their chances of overcoming COVID with minimal complications.
The Effects of Bacteria on Oral Hygiene
Bacteria is present in everybody’s mouth. This is a combination of ‘good’ bacteria and ‘bad’ bacteria. Individuals need to populate the mouth with positive bacteria to drive out the harmful bacteria. When there is a negative imbalance, the risk of infections dramatically increases.
These infections include gingivitis, periodontal diseases such as gum disease, and cavities. These conditions put the patient at risk of encountering an infection that can lead to severe complications.
Because of this, you must find ways to balance the bacteria in your mouth by following exceptional oral hygiene outlines.
How to Avoid Post-COVID Complications
As there is a clear link between post-COVID complications and inadequate oral hygiene, it is important to understand how to minimize the risk of experiencing these complications should you contract the virus. Maintaining excellent oral health is something everyone should strive for regardless of illness or infections. Due to the nature of COVID and the potential to experience severe problems when suffering from it, patients should take more significant steps towards improving their oral hygiene practices.
Improving your everyday dental hygiene routine will reduce the risk of bacterial superinfections within the mouth. As a result, patients will minimize the chances of experiencing extreme complications if they contract COVID-19.
Besides washing your hands, wearing a mask, and adhering to social distancing measures, people should also make sure they brush their teeth twice a day using toothpaste with triclosan and stannous fluoride. If they do not already, they should develop a habit of rinsing their mouth out, preferably with one that contains chlorhexidine and delmopinol. While these ingredients cannot especially ‘kill’ coronavirus, they do offer disinfectant properties that can help reduce the risk of bacterial superinfections.
Flossing should also be a high priority, as this can remove plaque and dislodge food stuck between teeth. If left unchecked, this plaque and food can lead to infections in the gums, which can expose the tissue and increase the risk of complications should a patient experience COVID-19 symptoms and be diagnosed with coronavirus.
For elderly individuals who are statistically more susceptible to experiencing post-COVID complications, proper denture care should also be a priority.
One primary issue with improving your oral hygiene during the pandemic is the availability of dental care. Many dental practices have been forced to close or at least operate at reduced hours and capacity during the past year as countries went into lockdown. Like doctors’ offices and hospitals, these dentist’s offices have prioritized emergency cases, meaning that some people have been forced to miss out on treatment.
While this is understandable as it can prevent health services from becoming overloaded, it is also a cause for concern, especially when it comes to dental care. It is easy to see why neglected dental treatment can increase the risk of complications. Infections and bacteria can quickly multiply, which poses a severe risk for patients waiting for treatment regardless of whether they currently have COVID-19.
There has also been a significant lack of media coverage regarding oral health. Rather than promote the idea of brushing your teeth in addition to washing your hands, wearing a mask, the general population is unaware of the impact that poor oral hygiene can have. This means there is a greater risk of complications both during and after an experience with COVID-19.
Maintaining Oral Hygiene
Oral hygiene fundamentals should be followed by everyone all-year-round, regardless of the presence of a pandemic. Still, it is arguably more important than ever to focus on oral health to minimize the risk of complications after contracting coronavirus. By following the necessary steps of oral hygiene and striving to improve in areas you are usually lax or tend to neglect, you can reduce your chances of suffering further problems should you contract COVID-19.