Association tied to ‘bacterial load’ as researchers discover a link between oral hygiene and COVID-19
British researchers have found a link between poor oral hygiene and the severity of the COVID-19 disease.
The study from researchers Victoria and Ariane Sampson entitled “Could there be a link between oral hygiene and the severity of SARS-CoV-2 infections?” was published in the latest issue of the British Dental Journal.
As of July 6, globally, over 10.5 million people have been infected and there have been more than half a million deaths attributed to the virus around the world.
The research team speculated there may be a connection between COVID-19 infection and “bacterial load.” They tried to explore whether high levels of bacteria or bacterial superinfections and complications of bacterial infections such as pneumonia, sepsis, and respiratory distress syndrome could be associated with poor outcomes from COVID-19.
They further explored complications of COVID-19 seen among those with poor oral health and periodontal disease. The oral microbiome or the microbial flora of the mouth was explored and its connection with the COVID-19 outcome was analyzed. “We explore the connection between high bacterial load in the mouth and post-viral complications, and how improving oral health may reduce the risk of complications from COVID-19,” wrote the authors.
They added that during lung infection, there is a risk of aspirating the oral secretions into the lungs, which could cause infection. They explained that periodontitis or infection of the gums is one of the most prevalent causes of harmful bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria lead to the formation of cytokines such as Interleukin 1 (IL1) and Tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which can be detected in the saliva and can reach the lungs leading to infection within them.
According to the study, those with periodontal disease are at a 25 percent greater risk of heart disease, three times the risk of getting diabetes, and 20 percent increased risk of getting high blood pressure.
“Good oral hygiene has been recognized as a means to prevent airway infections in patients, especially in those over the age of 70,” the researchers concluded.