Lots of people get nervous about seeing the dentist – even more so during a pandemic, despite the fact that there is not a single case of a person becoming infected with the novel coronavirus in this way. In fact, dentists, hygienists, and assistants are far more at risk of infection than patients due to the aerosols generated during many common dental procedures.
Yet with proper precautions – many of which have been common in biological dental offices for years – dental care can be provided safely. And considering the relationship between oral and whole body health, we’d say dental care is more important than ever now.
As a recent commentary in Preventing Chronic Disease urges, oral health care should be made “a public health priority in the response to the pandemic.”
Despite this, the World Health Organization is now recommending that people postpone routine, elective, and preventive care in areas with community spread of COVID-19.
The timing of this announcement is especially odd, considering what science has been showing us about the relationship between oral health and COVID – such as the BDJ paper we blogged about earlier, which suggested a link between poor oral health and the risk of complications from COVID-19.
“A healthy oral cavity acts as a barrier against all kinds of diseases,” reported the Dental Tribune International back in June,
and according to [Prof. Roland] Frankenberger [president of the German Society of Dentistry and Oral Medicine], this is also true for COVID-19. He explained that there is data showing that, in areas where the lack of oral hygiene causes diseases such as caries or periodontitis, there are also more fatal courses of COVID-19.
This was most recently shown by a study to be published this fall in the Journal of the California Dental Association. In this case, an international team of researchers found that
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients with high levels of interleukin (IL-6), a harmful protein produced by periodontitis, were at significantly greater risk of suffering life-threatening respiratory problems during the three-month study.
The study was prompted by earlier research regarding hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Germany who were tested for IL6 while they were in critical condition and unable to breathe without the help of a ventilator.
According to the researchers, the study suggests that COVID-19 patients with bad gums face a much greater risk of generating harmful IL-6 proteins that spread to their lungs and trigger a life-threatening respiratory crisis.
“Gum disease has been linked to other breathing ailments, including pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, so we weren’t surprised to find a link to respiratory problems with COVID-19,” said researcher Shervin Molayem, DDS, a dental surgeon based on Los Angeles and founder of the UCLA Dental Research Journal.
Clearly, it’s no time to be slacking on your oral care – both your home hygiene and that offices like ours can provide safely. You can learn more about our COVID-19 safety protocols here.