A handful of studies point to a correlation between poor oral health and a worse outcome of the COVID-19 infection. 1,2 But is there any evidence that the virus may be responsible for future oral health problems? Find out what the research has to say about COVID and oral health.
Mouth Ulcers as a Result of COVID-19
SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus responsible for our current COVID-19 global pandemic. Being a new disease, there are limited studies on the effects of the virus on the human body. An early 2021 study looked at eight patients infected with COVID-19 who also developed ulcers on their lips, tongue, palate, or oropharynx. 3 Since the cells that the SARS-CoV-2 virus attacks are found in the oral cavity, it is suspected that the virus itself caused the ulcers. The researchers recommended that further research is necessary to determine whether the virus directly causes mouth lesions or if they are just coincidental.
Dry Mouth After COVID-19 Infection
A study reviewing more than 170 cases of COVID-19 found that dry mouth was the most common oral symptom and occurred in 44% of the subjects.4 Since dry mouth is associated with the development of gum disease and cavities, people with dry mouth related to COVID-19 infection need to be carefully monitored for these oral conditions. 5
How COVID Stress May Contribute to Oral Health Problems
A joint study between Harvard Medical School and the University of North Carolina measured stress levels among 1,500 people during May 2020. The researchers determined that the COVID-19 pandemic had increased stress levels by 55%.6
Earlier this year, the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute released results from a poll that surveyed dentists during February 2021. Dentists reported that stress-related oral health conditions of their patients had increased since an earlier poll conducted in the fall. More than 70% of the dentists observed an increase in teeth grinding and clenching, which are typically associated with stress.7 Teeth grinding and clenching can lead to gum recession and the development of gum disease.8
Oral Health Issues as a Result of COVID-19 Therapeutics
Early on in the pandemic, researchers were investigating the effect of antiviral medications on patients infected with COVID-19. The scientists noted that some patients developed problems with saliva production, soft tissues, and neurological-based oral sensitivity after intense therapeutic treatment.9 However, it’s uncertain if other factors, such as compromised immune systems, played a part in developing oral health problems.
There are two other reasons that hospitalized patients may experience oral health deterioration. First, patients on ventilators may show oral health deterioration due to reduced salivation and lack of chewing. Second, if the medical staff does not provide proper oral hygiene for their patients, their oral health will suffer. 9
COVID-19 Dental Office Closures and Worsening Oral Health
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. Soon after, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommended dental offices be closed to all but those who needed emergency care. As a result, 76% of dental offices were seeing only patients who required urgent attention, 19% were completely closed, and 5% were open to all but were seeing fewer patients.10 Lack of access to dental care is just one more factor that correlates COVID-19 to worsening oral health outcomes.
We’re Still Learning About COVID-19 and Oral Health
If you were infected with COVID-19 and experiencing mouth and gum issues, Dental Implants & Periodontal Health of Rochester can provide expert diagnosis and recommend follow-up treatments. Even if you steered clear of the virus, lack of access to oral care professionals might have prevented you from visiting a periodontist during the early stages of gum inflammation. We’re open for business and ready to restore your gum health. Contact us here or call 585.685.2005 to make an appointment.
 Journal of Clinical Periodontology: Association between periodontitis and severity of COVID-19 infection https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/jcpe.13435
 British Dental Journal: The impact of oral health status on COVID-19 severity, recovery period and C-reactive protein values https://www.nature.com/articles/s41415-021-2656-1
 Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, and Oral Radiology: Oral lesions in patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection: could the oral cavity be a target organ? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7434495/
 Dermatologic Therapy: COVID‐19 from the perspective of dentists: A case report and brief review of more than 170 cases https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7883121/
 Oral Diseases: The impact of coronavirus infectious disease 19 (COVID‐19) on oral health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7264805/