• 52% of COVID-19-induced deaths reported in healthy individuals
  • Bacterial overload responsible for COVID-19 complications 
  • Maintaining good oral health can help prevent severe illness

Poor oral hygiene could be associated with the severity of COVID-19, according to a new study. A team of experts from the Centre for Nutrition Education & Lifestyle Management (CNELM), London, and the Cambridge University Hospital Trust found that good oral hygiene could help prevent complications in COVID-19 patients, particularly those above 70 years of age.

While several COVID-19 patients recover without suffering many complications, some might require hospitalization or even mechanical ventilation support. Risk factors including diabetes, obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases have been associated with severe illness from coronavirus infection.

Since 52% of COVID-19-induced deaths also occur in healthy individuals, the researchers sought to determine the cause. The main complications linked to severe COVID-19 illness include blood clots, sepsis, pneumonia, septic shock and acute respiratory distress syndrome. The researchers sought to find out what was the common factor among these complications.

Since most of them are observed among those with comorbidities and bacterial overload, they speculated that there might be a link between SARS-CoV-2 infection and bacterial load.

Their study explored the complications of the coronavirus infection observed among those with poor oral health and periodontal disease. They analyzed the oral microbiome of the mouth and whether it was in any way connected with the disease outcomes.

During lung infection, there is a risk of aspirating oral secretions into the lungs. This could aggravate lung infection. The researchers found that periodontitis (gum infection) is one of the most prevalent causes of harmful oral bacteria. These bacteria might trigger certain proteins that can reach the lungs and cause infection.

“Therefore, inadequate oral hygiene can increase the risk of inter-bacterial exchanges between the lungs and the mouth, increasing the risk of respiratory infections and potentially post-viral bacterial complications,” said the researchers in a paper published in Nature.

Individuals with gum diseases are at a 25 percent elevated risk of cardiovascular diseases, a 20% higher risk of getting hypertension, and thrice at the risk of getting diabetic compared to others. And these, the researchers say, are all risk factors of severe coronavirus illness.

“Oral hygiene be maintained if not improved, during a SARS-CoV-2 infection in order to reduce the bacterial load in the mouth and the potential risk of bacterial superinfection," said the researchers in their paper.

Oral health
Poor oral health could worsen IBD, study warns PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay