A new study titled “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. This new study speculates that there may be a connection between SARS- CoV-2 infection and “bacterial load.”
They explored if 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 outcome from COVID-19. The researchers explained further, “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.” The study suggests that the connection between the oral microbiome and COVID-19 complications should be investigated in the process of better understanding the outcomes of COVID-19 disease.
The authors of the study explained that during lung infection, there is a risk of aspirating the oral secretions into the lungs, which could cause infection. Some of the bacteria present in the mouth that could cause such infections include “Porphyromonas gingivalis, Fusobacterium nucleatum, Prevotella intermedia,” they wrote.
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. Thus, the researchers wrote, “inadequate oral hygiene can increase the risk of inter-bacterial exchanges between the lungs and the mouth, increasing the risk of respiratory infections and potentially post-viral bacterial complications.”
What is clear is that 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.