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Easy Oral Hygiene May Reduce Severity of COVID-19

Simple daily measures could help to lower the risk of severe disease and transmission, including using mouthwash.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the University of Birmingham, in collaboration with investigators from South Africa and the United States, has found that effective, daily oral health care could aid in the reduction of disease severity in those with a COVID-19 infection.

Results from the study were published in the Journal of Oral Medicine & Dental Research.

"This model may help us understand why some individuals develop COVID-19 lung disease and others do not,” Ian Chapple, a Professor of Periodontology at the University of Birmingham said. “It could also change the way we manage the virus - exploring cheap or even free treatments targeted at the mouth and, ultimately, saving lives.”

There is some evidence indicating that COVID-19 can pass to the lungs from saliva, with the virus going from the mouth directly to the bloodstream. The investigators behind the study have proposed that the accumulation of dental plaque and periodontal inflammation may further intensify the chances of the virus reaching the lungs.

"Gum disease makes the gums leakier, allowing microorganisms to enter into the blood,” Chapple said. “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."

For the study, investigators created a model using CT scans of lungs from patients who had a confirmed infection with COVID-19.

Findings showed that the blood vessels of the lungs are initially impacted by COVID-19 disease, instead of the airways. They found that the mouth was a breeding ground and allowed the virus to thrive, with any breach in oral immune defense allowing the virus to enter the bloodstream.

"Studies are urgently required to further investigate this new model, but in the meantime daily oral hygiene and plaque control will not only improve oral health and wellbeing, but could also be lifesaving in the context of the pandemic," Chapple said.