Why in a pandemic you have to go to the dentist more than ever: relationship between covid-19 and oral health

Jose Nart, International University of Catalonia

The covid-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus has generated multiple changes in our society. Some of them, fortunately, in a positive sense.

Without going any further, social awareness in general health and well-being has increased exponentially. We have been able to verify in our meats that the aforementioned virus attacked, in general, more severely those patients who suffered or suffer from an underlying disease. And even more so if this disease is related to inflammation.

The pandemic has also made us aware of the importance of oral health. Going to the dentist is always important, among other things to maintain oral health that impacts our smile and self-esteem, as well as our chewing. But we now know that it has an important impact on our general health.

The danger of having swollen gums

Patients with severe gum inflammation –periodontitisIn jargon – they have a constant low-grade inflammation spread throughout the body that increases the risk of other diseases such as acute myocardial infarction, hypertension, poorer diabetes control, even premature birth.

Well, these patients who presented periodontitis severe or advanced and have been infected by covid-19 have had a 9 times greater risk of dying, and 3.5 times more likely to enter an ICU.

Makes sense. It turns out that complications from infection with covid-19 are inflammatory. That is, an inflammation response is produced in our body to combat the virus. Very similar, coincidentally, to what happens in patients with periodontitis, where bacteria invade the gums and our body responds by inflaming itself, losing the bone that supports the teeth.

This inflammation through the release of mediators spreads through our body, affecting other organs. As in patients with covid-19 the inflammation of both processes is added, the risk of dying is triggered.

The diagnosis and treatment of periodontitis, formerly called pyorrhea, is simple in most patients. Oral hygiene twice a day by the patient and the elimination of bacteria on the teeth and their roots by the periodontist and / or dentist seem to be enough to have healthy gums, and reduce inflammation.

The good work of dentists during the pandemic

On the other hand, dentists or dentists and our teams of hygienists and assistants have been exposed to the virus during all this time for obvious reasons. The working distance to the oral cavity of our patients is usually approximately 35 centimeters. However, and surprising strangers, but not the profession itself, the contagion between dentists and dental clinics has been invaluable. Dental clinics have once again proven to be a very safe place in the prevention of cross-infection, of viruses in this case.

It is understandable that this evidence surprises the general population since we have understood that the main route of infection of the virus is through the mouth. What have we dentists done well? Protect ourselves with masks, mostly FPP2, and ask patients to rinse with chloride of cetylpyridinium (CPC) at 0.05% alone or with chlorhexidine (CHX) for one minute before any examination or intervention.

The first active principle, CPC, has been shown in laboratory studies to reduce the viral load extremely and thus greatly reduce the spread by saliva or aerosols. More recent studies seem to indicate that CHX also has this ability.

This safety more than demonstrated, together with the importance of preventing inflammation, are powerful arguments to be very attentive while the pandemic lasts (and after, of course) to health oral.

Jose Nart, Associate Professor of Periodontics. Head of the Department of Periodontics and Director of Master from Periodontics and Implants, International University of Catalonia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original.