A recent New York Times article, “Their Teeth Fell Out. Was It Another Covid-19 Consequence?” raised the possibility that tooth loss could be another result of COVID-19 infection, although the article stated that there are currently limited examples on the topic. According to the article, some medical experts think that it is possible that the infection could aggravate existing dental conditions.
Currently there is mostly anecdotal evidence of tooth loss being associated with the infection. Some of the individuals cited in the article lost teeth even though they did not have any underlying dental problems. Many of the individuals lost the tooth without any blood loss or pain. This description could point to a connection to the COVID-19 infection’s known ability to attack blood vessels.
The article quoted an expert on this issue:
“Teeth falling out without any blood is unusual, Dr. Li said, and provides a clue that there might be something going on with the blood vessels in the gums. The new coronavirus wreaks havoc by binding to the ACE2 protein, which is ubiquitous in the human body. Not only is it found in the lungs, but also on nerve and endothelial cells.”
Therefore, Dr. Li says,
‘it’s possible that the virus has damaged the blood vessels that keep the teeth alive in Covid-19 survivors; that also may explain why those who have lost their teeth feel no pain. It’s also possible that the widespread immune response, known as a cytokine storm, may be manifesting in the mouth.”
Some other medical research has also pointed to the possibility that COVID-19 could worsen or even initiate oral health problems, although the research is limited. More research is needed to definitively establish a correlation between COVID-19 and tooth loss.
Another area requiring more extensive research is whether existing oral health conditions could increase severity of illness. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has highlighted that populations at higher risk for many of the chronic diseases that have been linked with worse COVID-19 outcomes are similar to those at increased risk for developing oral health conditions. Over the summer, Nature’s British Dental Journal also raised the possibility of a link between oral hygiene and severity of illness, and called for additional examination of the subject. “[T]he connection between the oral microbiome and COVID-19 complications should be investigated in the process of better understanding the outcomes of COVID-19 disease.”
Additional research on COVID-19 and oral health is necessary. Current concerns underscore what advocates for expanded oral health coverage have long stated: oral health is part of overall health.