Coronavirus (COVID-19): Why Your Dental Health Is Important

Dr. Korwin Red Bank, NJ

Gum infections or dental abscess can deplete immune resources and prevent the body from defending itself against the attack of viruses like Coronavirus

We are all subject to bacteria and viruses that put the body and its defenses under stress. When your body is in optimal state of health, viruses that produce illness with symptoms resolve after the immune system reduces the virus counts to a level where they are defensible.

On the other hand, when your body’s defenses are depleted and weak, a viral attack will not only produce viral symptoms, but also cause other organs in the body to function poorly. This will have a very serious effect on your health. A weakened organ must still provide normal function, and now also additional defensive functions while your body is under attack from a virus.

Lower Immune System, More Inflammation

The immune struggle of a cold or allergy leaves a visible effect in the mouth. When immune systems are depleted, the normal bacteria in the mouth can have a greater damaging effect on the oral structures. We see this evidenced by increased inflammation and gum pocketing around the teeth, with increased bleeding and swelling. This occurs because the body’s defenses are weakened.

When conditions are normal the body can cope with the toxic effects of bacteria. When you have an illness, then the body diverts its defense mechanisms and suddenly, deep pockets and bleeding occurs in around the teeth and gums. This means that if you support your oral health with regular dental visits for cleaning and preventing infections, your body will have more resources to deal with more seriously acute problems such as the Coronavirus.

Each gum infection or dental abscess drains immune resources and prevents the body from defending itself against the attack by viruses. The more resources you have at your disposal, the less the effect of any bacterial or viral infections.

This is one of the reasons that older patients have a higher mortality rate with the flu or Coronavirus. Their body systems are depleted or run down, and as a result they cannot provide the same defense that a younger, healthier person will mount.

This lack of immune system compromises survival and to some degree is preventable by fully tuning up your health by fluid intake, exercise, nutritious diet, and of course dental cleaning and treatment of any infections or abscesses.

The amount of white blood immune cells that are required to attack an infection in a tooth is considerable. Those resources are best applied to prevent a viral attack and avoid suffering the catastrophic effects of a viral onslaught.

Early Detection of Health Problems

During your dental visit, early signs of more serious medical problems can also be detected. Those patients are referred to their physicians for evaluation and treatment. We take blood pressure on every patient at every visit and we see patients every day with signs but no symptoms of heart disease. Many patients after seeing their physician, has thanked us later for giving them the opportunity to control their elevated blood pressure at a very early treatable stage. Fortunately many of our patients see their physicians and are provided non-pharmacological or medication interventions.

Oral Cancer Screening & GERD

During every dental hygiene visit we are vigilantly looking for signs of oral cancer using a VELscope®, which detects many oral pathologies. We can even see signs of acidity in the back of the tongue. This acidity can be caused by GERD, which can lead to a pre-cancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagitis. Sometimes we can see acidity in a reversible condition during pregnancy due to the pressures on the digestive tract while the fetus is developing and growing. Most patients with GERD have symptoms and are aware of this condition and are treating it with their physician, but we find that not all patients are aware, and the referral to their physician is a welcome step.

Missing Teeth and Nutrition

Of course, when you are missing teeth, nutrition becomes more difficult. At this point reliance on softer, processed foods becomes more common by older adults. These less nutritious foods may satisfy hunger and taste cravings, but in the long run are simply not as beneficial for your health.

When speaking to nursing home personnel, they can affirm that patients with all their teeth are healthier and perhaps and can add years to their lives by being able to eat and digest healthier non processed foods.

Gut Bacteria, Oral Health and Disease Resistance

During a dental cleaning, the plaque and calculus that surround the teeth are removed. This plaque has effects beyond the oral cavity. Recent articles on psychological well-being have revealed that gut bacteria have an enormous effect on mental health and even depression. Changing the type of gut bacteria can serve to elevate mood, and of course digestive health. Patients with certain types of gut bacteria are even more resistant to certain diseases.

The source of many types of gut bacteria arise directly form the bacteria that grow on the teeth and gums. These bacteria are swallowed routinely, and possibly survive their journey through the digestive tract to populate the intestines. From there they can affect general health and mood. When you have a cleaning and maintain the cleaning by proper home care, oral bacterial quantities can be reduced to a minimum without overwhelming contributions from the oral cavity.

Clean Mouth, Healthy Body

We have all met people with loads of unpleasant breath and visible deposits on their teeth. Unfortunately, these people concurrently frequently have high rates of oral cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and many other systemic diseases. Maintaining a clean mouth can help to maintain a healthy body or improve general health even when disease is present.

An acute cardiac measurement of inflammation called C Reactive protein or CRP is markedly reduced when infected gums are treated and cleaned up. This effect has been studied in the literature is and is repeatable when measured before and after gum treatment. This reduction in inflammation translates into better cardiac as well as systemic health. Detection of oral disease and prevention of systemic infection starts with a compete oral examination and evaluation of gum health. This is so important that unlike many dental practices we measure gum depths at very cleaning, not just in selected areas or only occasionally or infrequently.

Reverse the Decay in Time

Of course, an additional benefit of a clean mouth is a reduction in the incidence of cavities. Even in teeth with beginning cavities, a process called remineralization can take place. This remineralization occurs when acidity levels in the mouth which are caused by bacteria fall to a low level. This lowered acidity allows the calcium in saliva to reenter the depleted tooth and reverse the decay process. Reversing the process by remineralization can restore the tooth hardness to more normal levels. This effect is not possible when decay has become more advanced. So early detection and treatment of cavities pays the best dividends on the long run.

Robert Korwin DMD, MICOI, MAGD is an award-winning dental expert who has served the Middletown-Red Bank-Monmouth County area for over 35 years. His practice offers a full range of general, reconstructive and cosmetic dental procedures with an emphasis on patient comfort.  Advanced Dentistry with a Gentle Touch, includes sedation dentistry, and the practice works with individuals to maximize their dental health, ensure their comfort and minimize financial concerns. For more information, please call (732) 219-8900 or book an appointment with Dr. Robert Korwin.


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