Maintaining good oral health is more than just about the health of your mouth, teeth and gums. Over the years studies have demonstrated a strong link between oral health and overall health and wellness.

“Mouths are teeming with mostly harmless bacteria,” said Erin Greene, DDS, program director of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency program and dentist at Roseman University College of Dental Medicine in Henderson. “Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care — daily brushing and flossing, and regular dental visits — keep the bacteria under control. Without proper oral hygiene, bacteria in the mouth can reach levels that may lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease. With the mouth being the entry point to the digestive and respiratory tracts, some of these bacteria can enter the body and cause disease.”

Poor oral hygiene has shown in some studies to contribute to endocarditis, which is an infection of the lining of the heart, cardiovascular disease, and pneumonia. Now, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology by researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada have found a possible link between oral hygiene and higher rates of complications and more fatal outcomes for individuals diagnosed with COVID-19.

The McGill researchers discovered that COVID-19 patients with gum disease were 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit, 4.5 times more likely to need a ventilator, and 8.8 times more likely to die when comparing to those without gum disease.

Greene said, “The study found that blood levels of biomarkers which indicate inflammation in the body were significantly higher in COVID-19 patients with gum disease, which may explain the higher rates of complications for those patients.”

In addition to preventative measures, such as masks, frequent hand washing and social distancing, Greene encourages attention to oral hygiene as another way to help protect oneself from COVID-19. “People of all ages should be brushing their teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and replacing toothbrushes every three months,” she said. “It’s also important to schedule regular dental cleanings and check ups to identify and address any issues.”

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many Americans to delay their dental care. An article published in JAMA Health Forum in December 2020 reported that one in five adults in the United States – roughly 20 percent – reported experiencing delayed care during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 31-42 percent reported postponing health care for non-COVID-19 issues. This included dental care.

Putting off dental care – or neglecting it entirely – can eventually lead to bigger problems. An absence of treatment increases your chances for health-related complications, more severe illnesses, and higher costs.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve seen a lot of major dental issues. With the shutdown, fears about going to the dentist, and people losing their jobs, many people had no choice but to ignore their dental health, unless they were experiencing significant pain,” said Greene. “With the potential link between oral hygiene and COVID-19 severity, it’s more important than ever to see your dentist regularly.”

Oral health concerns like tooth decay and gum disease can be prevented with regular exams and cleanings. With COVID vaccinations readily available and life returning to normal, now is a great time to schedule the services you may have been delaying. Roseman Dental offers cutting edge care at lower rates than traditional dental or orthodontic clinics.

Article by Jason Roth