COVID-19 patients often experience a loss or altered taste, dry mouth, and sores. These symptoms can last for many years, Brazilian researchers report.
Nearly 4 out 10 COVID patients suffer from impaired taste or total loss. However, dry mouth can affect up to 43% of COVID patients, according to their comprehensive review of more than 180 published research.
It looked at oral health symptoms in nearly 65,000 COVID patients around the world — with some predictable and also some surprising results.
“Regarding COVID-19 specifically, the important message to take away is to keep healthy oral habits during their illness, if they are able,” Dr. Edmond Hewlett, who was a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, said in reviewing the findings. Dry mouth greatly increases the likelihood of tooth decay. To maintain your oral health, brush twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste and floss once per day. Avoid sugary foods and beverages.
Most people know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can cause loss of taste and smell. E.N.S. Guerra, a University of Brasilia researcher, did a review of the data. Guerra found a variety of variations on this theme.
According to the study, COVID patients can experience a diminished sense of taste (hypogeusia); a distorted taste of taste in which everything tastes bitter, sweet, or metallic (dysgeusia); and a complete loss of taste (ageusia).
Researchers found that the complications were more common in European COVID patients. This was affecting approximately half of them. This is in contrast to the 25% of Latin American patients who reported similar symptoms and 33% of American COVID patients.
Some COVID patients also reported lesions on or under their tongue or along the gums and sides of the mouth, the study found.
Hewlett stated that these complications aren’t unique to COVID-19 and don’t affect everyone. He said that while it is not clear why certain people have oral problems, even mild infections, there may be some oral disruption.
And, Hewlett added, while it’s not clear how long oral symptoms may persist, it appears they can be part of the constellation of symptoms known as “long COVID.” This refers to patients who struggle with COVID-related issues for months after overcoming many of their initial symptoms.
Oral health issues have arisen before during the pandemic — as many patients have put off routine checkups.
Hewlett stated that even people who are not affected by COVID issues, maintaining good oral health is crucial to their overall health. Translation: Do not let fear of COVID cause you to neglect your dental care.
He stated that “going to the dentist has been shown to be very safe in the perspective of COVID-19 infections risk.”
This advice was also supported by Dr. Shervin Mlayem, a periodontist who is also an implant surgeon and director of the Mouth-Body Research Institute Los Angeles.
He lamented that “people still haven’t been to the dental offices even though it’s been a whole year” since the outbreak of the pandemic.
He said, “They’ve abandoned their dental routine.” He said that the result is an increase in bleeding gums, periodontal diseases, and the negative effects of tooth grinding.
Molayem stated that their nighttime tooth grinding is probably secondary stress to the actual disease. That means COVID-related stress has the potential to cause jaw pain (TMJ), as well as cracked and chipped teeth.