While researchers race around the clock to find a cure or develop a vaccine for COVID-19, many around the world are left wondering what they can do to reduce their risk of catching and spreading the deadly illness. While we know that maintaining appropriate distance from others, washing our hands thoroughly and wearing a face mask in public can all help, these initiatives have still not been able to stop the spread of COVID-19 completely.
Now, dentists are suggesting that maintaining excellent oral hygiene during the pandemic is one more way to curb the spread of the illness. Dr. Raul Garcia of Miami, Florida, explains why.
“The mouth is the gateway to the entire body,” says Garcia. “So anything entering the mouth could have an impact on the body.”
That includes the COVID-19 virus, he says.
That’s because, according to Garcia, COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person via respiratory droplets that are projected into the air when a person with COVID-19 coughs or sneezes. If a healthy person then breathes or touches those droplets, they too can become infected with the illness when the virus enters their mucous membranes and multiplies.
This means having excellent oral health is paramount, because any lurking dental plaque can harbor respiratory pathogens in the saliva. Microbes can even attach to endotracheal tubes of ventilated patients. These microbes can be aspirated into the respiratory tract or even make their way into the bloodstream through bleeding gums. They can then make their way to your lungs, says Garcia.
So, what can you do to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 in relation to your oral health?
“For starters, keep teeth clean and free of plaque,” says Garcia. “The less plaque on your teeth, the fewer hiding places for respiratory pathogens.”
Furthermore, says Garcia, keeping teeth clean will keep the gums healthy, making them less likely to bleed during brushing – and less able to allow pathogens to enter the bloodstream.
Finally, Garcia reminds us that poor oral health can cause and exacerbate illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and more – all of which increase your risk of serious complications and even death from COVID-19.
“We know that the teeth and gums play a vital role in overall health, and if they’re not healthy we’re not healthy,” he says. “Don’t let your mouth make you vulnerable to serious complications. Don’t forget your oral health during this pandemic.”