Oral Systemic Health & COVID-19

With all that has been and is being learned about SARS-Cov2 during the pandemic, there is a marked shift in what we think and do in taking charge of our health. Dr. Razdolsky has always advocated for the study and support of oral health to overall systemic health, and with the latest interest in how nutrition impacts related underlying health condition risk to COVID-19 case severity, could there be a correlation to oral health as well? Recent research suggests, yes. There could be a link between gum disease and COVID-19.

While not everyone with gum disease has heart disease or vice versa, historically there does seem to be a correlation. Although research is not clear whether gum disease is a direct risk factor for heart disease, it has been suggested there is link between the two. Some believe pathogens can cause cascading damage to other tissues and organs, or even the bacteria in the gums may itself enter the blood supply where it can further cause inflammation and damage. In fact, one study published earlier this month suggests a link between gum disease and respiratory failure in COVID-19 patients! With such tragic consequences, it is theories like these that have compelled researchers to further study how diet, oral health and systemic health can provide insight not only into COVID-19, but other diseases as well. Imagine what we can learn about not only this virus, but how we as human beings may react to future unknown threats.

“We already know that good oral hygiene along with eating a diet of nutrient rich foods promotes healthy teeth and gums, as well as provides our bodies with the right fuel to stay healthy and strong,” said Dr. Razdolsky. “It has become increasingly apparent how important it is for us to look at these same factors in relationship to how they keep us healthy and fight disease for life.”

It is estimated that obesity attributed to bad nutrition affects about 35% of U.S. adults, with a disproportionate number of those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale. This becomes increasingly evident as cases of the COVID-19 virus are recorded in population groups with these related demographics and underlying health conditions. Studies have indicated Americans are among the least healthy population in the developed world. According to the 2019 Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index published February 2019, the United States ranked 35th out of 169 economies in factors that contribute to overall health. Most can agree we choose processed food over farm-fresh, and packaged or prepared food over cooking it ourselves. It is almost assured a shift to healthier, more balanced meals with fresh ingredients, vegetables and fruit would benefit our society by helping to lower obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes which has become an ever-growing trend.

Sadly, many of us have picked up more than one bad habit during COVID-19. Stress eating, a change to comfort foods rather than nutritious balanced meal planning, increased junk food consumption or even boredom eating. We are all a little guilty, right? Working toward healthier eating has always been a challenge, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are looking scientifically and introspectively at our at-risk populations with high levels of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“Smart snacking is a great way to keep your oral health on track, so you should choose wisely. Forgo the sweet sugary snacks, especially hard or sticky candy if you wear braces.” said Dr. Razdolsky.

Dr. Razdolsky suggests that instead of junk snacking we should opt for nutritious choices like fresh vegetables, yogurt, and if you have a sweet tooth, some fresh fruit. This benefits not only your oral health but is a much better option for your overall health.

“Let me also remind everyone it is important to brush after snacking to protect your smile,” said Dr. Razdolsky. “This protects your teeth and gums from plaque which can lead to gum disease impacting your long-term oral health. If you can’t brush at minimum rinse your mouth and between your teeth to remove food particles until you can get to brush,” he added.

Maybe in this post-COVID society, our wellness habits will change for the better. Perhaps we will finally begin to recognize how we must educate ourselves and our children to address the necessary changes that positively impact the health and well-being of our society in the long run. All of these things are tied together. A smile, is not just a smile and our health is not something we should take for granted. COVID-19 was not something any of us expected, but we must learn and adapt. You know… just in case.