As you’re probably well-aware, COVID-19 is mainly associated with a persistent cough and difficulty breathing. But what you may not know is that the virus can have a serious effect on your oral health. Many patients experience a complete loss or altered sense of taste. Others develop mouth sores or dry mouth. These side-effects are especially common in people who suffer from long-term Covid, often referred to as “long Covid”.
Let’s take a closer look at these symptoms and talk about what you can do if you develop them.
Altered Taste and Smell
Research indicates that at least 4 out of 10 Covid patients experience impaired or total loss of taste. In addition, loss of smell affects nearly 1 in 3 people. These issues can persist long after the initial infection, and can affect how you detect both good and bad flavors.
Altered taste and smell can certainly disrupt your daily life, impacting your psychological well-being and physical health. Patients experiencing these symptoms have reported:
- Altered eating
- Appetite loss
- Weight change
- Loss of pleasure in eating and social engagement
To help increase your taste, you should maintain your oral health by brushing your teeth at least twice daily and rinsing your mouth with plenty of water if it feels dry.
Salivary Gland Ectasia
Research by Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan, Italy, found salivary gland ectasia (or swollen salivary glands) common among COVID-19 patients. This symptom affected 43% of the 122 hospitalized patients in the study, none of which had oral health problems before becoming infected.
Salivary glands create saliva to help with swallowing and chewing. Researchers suggested that because they express the ACE2 receptor that SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect cells, salivary glands are most likely a place where coronavirus invades the body.
Swollen salivary glands lasted for months beyond clinical recovery in the majority of the patients in the study. If you experience this symptom, it’s best to contact your doctor.
White tongue, commonly referred to as “Covid tongue,” is a strange symptom of COVID-19 that affects your mouth. White tongue is characterized by tongue discoloration, enlargement, and mouth ulcers. Covid tongue can be associated with:
- An increased number of ACE receptors in your tongue.
- Oral thrush that is caused by Covid.
- The immune system’s response to COVID-19 can lead to swelling throughout the body, including tongue swelling.
- If you have the herpes simplex virus, it can be activated by Covid. This may lead to mouth ulcers.
Depending on the severity of Covid tongue, your doctor or dentist may prescribe corticosteroids or an anti-inflammatory medication to help with tongue swelling. If you have bumps or ulcers on your tongue, you may be prescribed a mouth rinse. Over-the-counter artificial saliva mouth rinses can also help with dry mouth and tongue healing.
Dry mouth is one of the most commonly reported side effects of Covid, affecting up to 43% of patients. Even after recovering, many people say they experience excessive thirst.
As you’ve probably seen me post about on social media, dry mouth increases the risk of tooth decay. So if you’re experiencing dry mouth as a result of Covid, you’ll want to take extra care to floss at least once a day and brush twice daily using fluoride toothpaste. In addition, it always helps to maintain proper oral health, such as avoiding sugary foods and drinks.
The number of patients with cracked teeth increased during the pandemic. While the virus itself didn’t cause the cracking, psychological stress over the pandemic, poor posture due to makeshift home offices, and sleep issues are all likely factors that lead to more grinding and clenching of teeth than usual.
It’s always important to see a dentist if you experience any pain or discomfort in your mouth or jaw.
How to Maintain Good Oral Health After Covid
Given the above effects of COVID-19 on your oral health, realize that it’s always best to maintain the best oral hygiene possible. You can do this by:
- Brushing your teeth daily using a fluoride toothpaste. Ensure you don’t brush vigorously to avoid damaging your gums.
- Flossing at least once per day.
- Using mouthwash after brushing and flossing. The mouthwash helps fight bad breath, dry mouth, and thrush.
- Limiting your intake of sugary foods and drinks.
- Drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
- Maintaining a well-balanced diet.
- Avoiding smoking.
- Getting a new toothbrush every 3 months.
- Visiting your dentist every 6 months for an oral checkup and cleaning.
In addition to this list, make sure that you disinfect your toothbrush, brush your tongue, and wash your hands after flossing to avoid virus transmission.
Here at my dental office in Lakewood, CO, we specialize in dental care services ranging from general and family dentistry to advanced dentistry. If you have any concerns about your oral health due to “long Covid” or your oral health in general, we’re here for you.
The health and safety of our patients is always our top priority. Contact us today, and let’s help you take care of that smile!