We already know that when it comes to dental concerns and oral health in general, routine checkups and cleanings help to prevent major problems by preventing conditions from getting bad or catching problems in their early stages of disease. From my personal experiences caring for patients throughout this pandemic I have seen the damage caused by delaying routine checkups and delayed treatment of disease such as gum disease or decay and bite alignment issues. In many cases problems that could have been prevented entirely became painful, and existing conditions became more painful (and far costlier to fix). In some cases, delays resulted in teeth that could have been saved having to be pulled.
Beyond the well-known fact that simply waiting to take care of routine oral health maintenance or dental disease absolutely allows the oral health to get worse we now have to consider how worsening oral health affects our ability to fight off other disease, including COVID-19. If your body’s immune system is busy fighting dental infection and/or gum disease it will hurt your ability to fight other diseases in general. And if you are not getting your routine dental exams you generally will not even know if your body has dental infection including even mild gum disease (known as gingivitis) which causes stress on your body’s immune system.
And on top of how untreated dental disease affects your ability to fight COVID-19, there are preliminary findings from scientists and doctors around the world that strongly suggest COVID-19 itself can cause an increase in oral health problems!
As reported by the New York Times (11/26, Yan) it has been documented some COVID-19 survivors are reporting “teeth falling out, as well as sensitive gums and teeth turning gray or chipping.” While “there’s no rigorous evidence yet that the infection can lead to tooth loss or related problems,” some health professionals say “existing dental problems may worsen as a result of COVID-19.” In addition, “it’s possible that the virus has damaged the blood vessels that keep the teeth alive in COVID-19 survivors,” and “it’s also possible that the widespread immune response, known as a cytokine storm, may be manifesting in the mouth.” The damage to the blood vessels associated with COVID-19 has also been linked to increased incidence of gum disease in COVID-19 survivors.
What we do know for sure…. the longer you go without your routine dental checkup, the more likely it is that you have disease that has not yet been found. And the longer you wait to treat any known dental or gum disease the worse it gets and the more it affects your body’s immune system’s ability to fight other disease, including COVID-19.
Call your dental office to discuss all the precautions they are taking to ensure your health and safety when you visit their facility and how they can help keep you and your loved ones safer from infectious disease such as COVID by ensuring your dental health. If you do not have a dental office, or if yours closed due to the pandemic please call us at 303-586-2874 to find out how we can help keep you safe and healthy through these challenging times.
Stay Safe and Be Well!
David A. Zeitlin, DDS