The surprising link between oral health and COVID-19 | Guest column | Pikes Peak Courier
The surprising link between oral health and COVID-19 |  Guest column |  Pikes Peak Courier

The surprising link between oral health and COVID-19 | Guest column | Pikes Peak Courier

While many people are probably aware of the most common risk factors associated with COVID-19 complications, including diabetes or high blood pressure, a surprising association with dental health has emerged. In fact, a recent study found that people with gum disease who become infected with COVID-19 have an increased risk of poor outcomes, including a greater chance of being admitted to the intensive care unit.

Gum disease – also known as periodontitis – can generally be prevented through proper brushing, flossing and routine dental cleanings. Unfortunately, nearly 50% of Americans 30 years of age or older have some form of gum disease, with the incidence of this condition increasing with age. More generally, good oral health is a first line of defense to help the body protect itself from infections, systemic inflammation, and various types of diseases.

While almost everyone knows how to brush in the morning and at night and floss daily, there are several other ways to help maintain or improve your oral health in the middle of COVID-19 and for many years to come. Here are some strategies to consider:

Upgrade your toothbrush and technique. If you are still using a manual toothbrush, now is the time to think about an upgrade. Electric toothbrushes offer several benefits over manual brushes, with some syncing to an app to help people develop better oral health habits by providing personal feedback, such as brushing time, intensity and tooth / gum coverage. Most importantly, people should brush for a full two minutes, use short, gentle strokes and keep their head at a 45 degree angle to the gums. Once the bristles start to fray, it’s time for a new one. To help make electric toothbrushes more affordable, some dental plans have begun to offer discounts on certain smart brushes and allow members to earn incentives to use them.

Focus on gum health. While people often think of good dental health as preventing cavities and creating a white smile, it is just as important to maintain or improve gum health. This is because healthy gums can prevent gingivitis and eventually periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss and contribute to a number of other health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and dementia. In addition to daily flossing, people can also use a water floss that shoots a stream of water between the teeth and can help reduce bacteria under the gum line. Another practice that research shows can support gum health as a supplement to – but not a substitute for – brushing and flossing is oil pulling, which involves whipping around the mouth with sunflower, sesame or coconut oil for 20 minutes, spitting out and then rinse. with water.

Access Virtual Dental Care. Virtual care has become an important opportunity to access health care in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, including dental care. Some dentists and dental plans provide telephone and video consultations that provide people with a starting point for advice and guidance to help select (if necessary) an appropriate framework for personal care. Dental care ranks among the most frequently avoidable emergency room visits, where teledentistry provides a resource that can help people make more informed decisions about where to turn for personal care, such as their own dentist, another available local dentist or a primary care physician. (note: not all dental services are eligible for virtual dental care).

By considering these tips, you can help maintain or improve your oral health, as well as contribute to your overall well-being.

Dr. Leonard Weiss is the Chief Medical Officer of UnitedHealthcare.

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