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Covid -19 & its Implications on Oral Health

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By Dr Bhawna Malik

We all know the covid-19 pandemic due to Sars-Cov-2 was declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 30 January, 2021, and a pandemic on 11 March, 2020. The virus is primarily transmitted directly through contact or indirectly through airborne respiratory droplets from an infected person.

 Covid-19 & Oro-dental health— Are they really related?

The answer is Yes. According to CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention), the top three oral conditions that impact overall health and quality of life are tooth decay (cavities), severe gum disease (periodontitis), and severe tooth loss. Lack of oral hygiene, opportunistic infections, stress, anxiety, and hyper-inflammatory response secondary to Covid-19 are the most important risk factors for the onset of oral infections and Covid-19 complications especially in patients with diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease. Covid-19 causes a cytokine reaction at a larger scale while periodontitis causes it at a much smaller scale but their combination escalate the severity and complications in the post–Covid phase resulting in aggressive dental issues. The occurrence of dental abscess (localised pus collection) has substantially seen to be increased in the post-Covid population. These abscesses may be an early presentation of osteomyelitis and the most dreadful is the fungal infection infiltrating the bone and that can be easily co-related with the tremendous rise in the incidence of mucormycosis in the post-Covid recovery cases all across the nation.

How to check – Are you suffering?

An individual is suffering from periodontitis and tooth decay if there is a foul smell from the mouth, teeth appear to be elongated, bleeding from gums while brushing, calculus deposits causing yellowish discoloration of teeth and mobile teeth. Anxiety, insomnia, etc., due to Covid and its news around us may hamper an individual’s sleep pattern and one tends to grind one’s teeth at night. Additionally, micro-trauma leads to cracked tooth syndrome that may be accompanied with intermittent headaches, ear ache, skin flushes, etc.

How a Dental Surgeon can help?

Dentistry has a particularly important role to play in keeping the oral cavity healthy. Dental prophylaxis strengthens the immunocompetence at the point of entry of the virus and helps to avoid infection, reduce the viral load or to mitigate its course. Periodontal disease is largely preventable and in most instances readily treatable, hence, providing opportunities for preventing and improving prognosis of several systemic pathologic conditions. Dental care should not be delayed because of the virus and every vulnerable individual should visit a dental surgeon so as to prevent worsening of the pre-existing condition if any and as well as timely diagnosis and intervention of overlooked problems such as sensitive teeth mentioned earlier. In addition, simple skin rash and redness in the eye (conjunctivitis) should be immediately checked for and not to be overlooked. So, visiting a dental surgeon during Covid pandemic is a must to be well aware of the importance of oral hygiene maintenance in our daily lives.

(Dr Bhawna Malik, BDS, MDS, is HOD, Dental Department, Shri Mahant Indiresh Hospital)