With the World Health Organization declaring the coronavirus a pandemic and the number of cases increasing at an alarming rate worldwide, we must all do everything we can to protect ourselves. Making sure to wash your hands regularly, avoiding close contact, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily are all basic ways the CDC recommends protecting yourself. While most people are already aware of these precautions, one of the most overlooked preventative measures is the practice of good oral hygiene.
How well you take care of your mouth can have a significant impact on your overall health and immune system. Not only can good hygiene and regular cleanings reduce the risk of developing cavities, they reduce the risk of developing infections. While it’s widely known that healthy teeth and gums can prevent gum disease, good oral hygiene can also help prevent other types of systemic diseases. Chronic gum inflammation makes your mouth essentially a portal that allows bacteria to enter your bloodstream.
Yale University School of Medicine discovered a link between oral hygiene and bacterial pneumonia in a recent study. Pneumonia is a lung infection that those infected with coronavirus have also developed. The study found that poor oral hygiene is a common contributing risk factor for contracting pneumonia. According to the Yale study, those with severe gum problems had a doubled risk of infection.
To practice good oral hygiene, exercise the following steps:
Once A Day
Drink a liter of water to ensure you are fully hydrated, as a dry mouth increases your risk of infections.
Twice A Day
- Floss, washing your hands before and afterwards to prevent the spread of bacteria
- Brush teeth for two minutes
- Scrape tongue and pallet, proceeding in sections while rising toothbrush under hot water in between each section
- Gargle with Hydrogen Peroxide or salt water
Three Times A Day
Drink a cup of hot water with half squeeze lemon for a natural disinfectant for your mouth throughout the day.
In addition to the previous steps, be mindful of proper toothbrush care as they can harbor harmful bacteria as well. The American Dental Association recommends replacing them at least every 3-4 months and any toothbrush used during an illness would be discarded afterwards to avoid reinfection. Follow these simple toothbrush tips to help fight your risk of infection:
- Thoroughly rinse the toothbrush after brushing, and allow to air dry in an upright position.
- Never share toothbrushes with anyone.
- Keep all household members’ toothbrushes separate from one another to prevent cross contamination and the spreading of germs.
- Sterilize your toothbrush once a week by placing it in a few inches of water in a microwave-safe container and heating it for 2-3 minutes.
Following these simple hygiene habits will not only help protect you from coronavirus during this outbreak, but also common infections throughout the year. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.