VIRUSES & OUR MOUTHS
Covid 19. This virus has turned our lives upside down not only from a health perspective but also from a social and economic perspective.
Paranoia runs rampant. Real or imagined, the CDC statistics demonstrate that some 22,000 deaths have occurred this season in the U.S. alone from Influenza A or B (the flu). When compared to the some 10,000 deaths worldwide from Covid 19 deaths we can see a difference but that does not take away from the fear of “what if?”
It used to be only medical personnel with masks and gloves but now Covid 19 has grocery store shoppers donning the same apparel. Many physicians have their professional opinions as to what everyone should be doing with many correct but also some are slightly askew of reality. Yesterday, I heard a physician on the radio telling everyone “stay away from your dental appointments for now”. He could not have been more wrong.
Periodontal (gum) disease is one of the world’s largest infection disease problems. Infections in our mouths from unabated bacteria can cause a number of systemic disease processes, often over-looked by many physicians. The potential for periodontal-gum disease complications multiplies with a viral infection.
Viral infections compromise our immune systems that then can open our body’s to a “super-infection”. A super-infection is caused by an over-lapping bacterial infection. This occurs as our body is often fighting off a cold or flu virus. The bacteria, often involved in a super-infection, are often already found in our body naturally. Streptococcus pneumoniae or Staphylococcus aureus are just two. As your body is fighting off a virus they can become “opportunistic” bacteria invading other body organ systems such as our lungs or sinuses, creating a super-infection.
The mouth. Our periodontal-gum complex has a biofilm of bacteria living there with many natural bacteria. One being Staphylococcus aureus. Also, Streptococcus pneumoniae is usually found in the nose and throat but can be found in the mouth. These bacteria, like all bacteria, can become opportunistic bacteria, if given the chance, due to a compromised immune system from a viral infection. These bacteria can then become a super-infection complicating a viral infection, treatment and finally, recovery.
That said, all patient’s should maintain continued regular cleaning appointments with their dentists to ensure a healthy periodontal-gum condition so as to avoid viral complications. Today, Covid 19 symptoms are multiple and potentially could create a super-infection that we read about. If a patient had an infection on their arm, their physician would be very concerned about a super-infection opportunity and treat it accordingly. Then ask yourself, if you have a periodontal-gum infection, wouldn’t you want that treated too and not simply “stay away from your dental appointments for now”. Avoid periodontal-gum infections with regular dental examination cleaning appointments.
Steven Jaksha DMD
Odontology, Oral Diseases
San Diego, CA