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Can oral hygiene prevent Covid-19?

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While Australia has effectively controlled the spread of covid-19 pandemic, many countries are not lucky. India’s tally of covid-19 infections has surged beyond 20 million at the last count (4 May 2021) making it the second nation after United States to pass the grim 20 million mark. As countries around the world are scrambling to vaccinate their citizens, is there anything we can do by ourselves to practice safe oral hygiene?

According to a study published in the Journal of Oral Medicine and Dental Research, simple oral hygiene could help lower the risk of transmission of covid-19 virus from the mouth to the lungs and help prevent severe instances of the infection. According to the research, there is emerging evidence that specific ingredients of some widely available mouthwash products can be highly effective in inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19.

There is some evidence indicating that Covid-19 can pass to the lungs from saliva, with the virus entering the bloodstream directly from the mouth. A 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. It is also thought that the accumulation of dental plaque and periodontal inflammation may further intensify the chances of the virus reaching the lungs.

So, what precautions should I take?

Gum disease makes the gums leakier, allowing micro-organisms to enter the blood. Simple measures – such as careful toothbrushing helps to reduce plaque build-up. Rinsing with mouthwash or even saltwater can help to reduce the concentration of the virus in the saliva and help mitigate the development of lung disease and thereby reduce the risk of deterioration to severe COVID-19.

The study hypothesized that the route is taken by the virus from saliva in the mouth, via the gums, into the blood vessels of the neck, and chest, through the heart, and to the lung blood vessels. They found that the mouth was a breeding ground and allowed the virus to thrive, with any breach in oral hygiene defence allowing the virus to enter the bloodstream. If this is proved correct, it could at least partly explain why some individuals develop Covid-19-related lung disease and others do not.

Here is how you can practice safe oral hygiene

While good oral hygiene is essential for your overall health, as the above study shows, it is critical to practice safe oral hygiene during the covid-19 pandemic. It is crucial to ensure the below steps become part of your daily habits.

  • Brush at least twice per day
  • Brush properly
  • Do not neglect your tongue
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste
  • Treat flossing as important as brushing
  • Do not let flossing difficulties stop you!
  • Consider mouthwash
  • Drink more water
  • Limit sugary and acidic foods
  • See your dentist at least twice a year

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