People who fail to look after their oral health could be more at risk of catching COVID-19.
Research highlights that poor oral health is linked to more severe symptoms of coronavirus. For example patients with gum disease are 3.5 times more likely to end up in intensive care compared to those with healthy gums.
While this might be a shock, oral health can actually aggravate a lot of diseases, worsening symptoms and causing more severe complications.
If bacteria in the mouth is aggravated, gum disease follows. This can enter the bloodstream and settle in different organs, increasing inflammation levels. Over time, this process can add to various conditions and illnesses – high blood pressure, kidney disease and diabetes, for example.
A team at the University of Birmingham found that dental plaque accumulation and periodontal inflammation intensifies the likelihood of coronavirus reaching the lungs, worsening the infection.
Experts suggest that even simple steps to improve oral hygiene can significantly lower the risk. This includes using mouthwash and making sure you brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day.
Co-author of the study is Iain Chapple, a professor of periodontology. He said: 'This model may help us understand why some individuals develop COVID-19 lung disease and others do not.
'It could also change the way we manage the virus - exploring cheap or even free treatments targeted at the mouth and, ultimately, saving lives.
'Gum disease makes the gums leakier, allowing microorganisms to enter into the blood.'
He added: 'Simple measures – such as careful toothbrushing and interdental brushing to reduce plaque build-up, along with specific mouthwashes, or even saltwater rinsing to reduce gingival inflammation – could help decrease the virus’ concentration in saliva and help mitigate the development of lung disease and reduce the risk of deterioration to severe COVID-19.'