The importance of oral health during the Covid-19 pandemic

September 21, 2020

While it’s already recognised that not only does a healthy mouth contribute towards good overall health, now new research on oral hygiene by researchers in Japan has also suggested that effective oral hygiene – tooth cleaning and mouth washing – could also improve the accuracy of Covid-19 testing. To help protect yourself and loved ones during pandemic there are a number of oral care steps we can take.

A good oral health routine

Full and regular cleaning – brushing, cleaning between your teeth with an interdental brush or floss and rinsing with mouthwash twice a day will keep your mouth fit and healthy. Interdental cleaning is especially important because if you don’t clean between your teeth you haven’t really cleaned your entire mouth.

The new research study of eight Covid-19 in patients in Japan has also
indicated that effective oral hygiene could improve the accuracy of Covid-19
testing and also decrease viral shedding – the period when a virus is
replicating inside the body and releasing into the environment.

The researchers believe in the cases where there was an extended viral shedding greater than 44 days, non-infectious viral acid could have accumulated in uncleaned oral cavities so could still be detected, but once good oral hygiene was followed the patients who had neglected this during their illness and initial recovery then achieved a negative test result within four to nine days.

Their premise was that
teeth cleaning and mouthwashing removes viral acid in the mouth and improves
the accuracy of testing. So poor oral care seemingly results in a considerably
longer transmission period after Covid-19 patients’ clinical recovery with
further positive tests extending patients’ hospitalisation.

While the
researchers admit that the small number of patients in their study makes it
difficult to make statistical conclusions, these promising new findings suggest
an even greater importance of a good oral health routine during the pandemic.

As the GUM experts highlight, a good oral health routine is particularly key in the morning as this is the time when your mouth will have developed the highest count of bacteria overnight, but is also important before going to bed. Keeping your mouth moistened throughout the day by drinking lots of water as well as massaging your salivary glands to stimulate saliva will also help as saliva inhibits the growth of bacteria.

For everyone, maintaining a good oral health routine should be part of our ‘stay healthy’ strategy during Covid-19.

Why toothbrushes and interdental brushes should be kept clean

always, keeping your toothbrush and interdentals clean and changing
them regularly is another step to good oral hygiene. Toothbrushes can
become easily contaminated by microorganisms in your mouth. Studies have also
shown that prolonged use of a toothbrush can facilitate contamination by
various microorganisms [1][2].

Keep your toothbrushes and interdentals clean by rinsing them thoroughly underwater. Always allow them to dry standing up because bacteria can thrive in moisture and heat. Try to also keep your toothbrushes and interdentals separate from any other members of your household if sharing and bathroom and don’t store them in the same container. If you suspect you or a household member has Covid-19, replace your toothbrush immediately and separate it from other members if you share the same bathroom.

Optimising your immune system

also especially important during the pandemic to try and optimise your immune
system. A balanced diet with lots of vitamin and mineral-rich foods is ideal,
along with regular physical activity following social distancing measures.
Sleep is also key – try and get at least seven hours per night. Try to also
keep stress levels down which can lower the immune system, while good oral
health will help keep it strong.

Summary steps for looking after your oral health during the pandemic

  1. Maintain good oral health as part of your ‘stay healthy’ strategy during COVID 19.
  2. Regularly give your gums and teeth a ‘full’ clean: brush, clean between your teeth and rinse with mouthwash twice a day.
  3. If you have diabetes be especially careful with your oral care routine – interdental cleaning in particular: brush, and clean between your teeth twice a day; rinse a few times a day.

(Full details of the Japanese research study originally published in Special Care in Dentistry can be found by following Effects of oral care on prolonged viral shedding in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Keep your GUM toothbrushes and interdental clean by rinsing them thoroughly underwater.