Can “Long Covid” Cause Your Teeth To Fall Out?
Can “Long Covid” Cause Your Teeth To Fall Out?
It must be, I thought, one of the race’s most persistent and comforting hallucinations to trust that “it can’t happen here” – that one’s own little time and place is beyond cataclysms. And now it was happening here. ~ John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids.
COVID-19 is of course, something that nobody expected and nobody wants. December 2019 had it emerge like a triffid, and we continue learning about it.
When it turned up, whether it arrived by Wuhan wet market or lab leak, alien life reaching earth, mother nature’ revenge or industrial evolution from the toxic damage we inflict – initially the focus was on transference.
Or more succinctly how to not transfer it. And we’re basically still working on that.
It’s only now that we’re becoming aware of the long-term effects, and that have occurred in the short term, really. As a pandemic, COVID-19 was born on 11 March 2020, and too healthily by far.
Academics at the National Institute for Health Research have been asked to review the evidence on long Covid, which generally refers to people who don’t recover from the acute COVID-19 infection and go on to have longer-term symptoms. It’s being described as, “.. this generation’s polio.”
Where we once thought of COVID-19 as a respiratory disease, it’s revealed itself as a vascular one as well. The virus makes blood much more viscid, and blood vessels are damaged. Millions of COVID-19 patients have suffered fatal heart attacks and strokes, and the link between gum disease and heart disease is clearly not a one-way street.
It could be that the inflammation caused by the coronavirus aggravates the gingiva – the part of the gum at the base of the teeth. We know that this (gingivitis) is a precursor of periodontal disease that can ultimately lead to tooth loss.
It appears that COVID-19 can do that too. At least that’s what some prosthodontists are noticing.
Improvements after having been infected are not universal; and they can be frustratingly slow. There is a minority that hasn’t improved in the many months since the first wave of the pandemic crashed. Some COVID-19 “long haulers” (as they call themselves), including doctors and nurses, can no longer work because of having trouble focusing, and fatigue. Others have lost their jobs, but can’t get disability benefits because subjective reports of misery malaise aside, doctors can find nothing wrong with them.
Initially COVID-19 was thought to be a viral infection that only really affected the elderly; and it’s absolutely not the case.
Anecdotally, a mother tweeted that her 12-year-old lost a secondary front tooth, and other teeth are becoming loose, nine months after having contracted the virus. Adults are reporting teeth falling out without any blood loss – which is unusual. The Angiogenesis Foundation, a non-profit organisation studying the health and disease of blood vessels, is investigating some of the perplexing problems COVID-19 patients are suffering months after the illness.
It’s possible that the virus damages the blood vessels keeping teeth alive, which explains the lack of pain and blood when it drops out. With periodontal disease, the bacteria that infect the gums also travel to blood vessels elsewhere in the body, causing inflammation and damage; maybe COVID-19 can cause a souped up version of gingivitis or periodontitis.
There are other theories. Tooth loss could be the result of an immune response called a cytokine storm where the body attacks its own cells and tissues while trying to fight off the virus. So if a long-hauler’s reaction is in their mouth, it’s a defense mechanism against the virus. Gum disease is very sensitive to hyper-inflammatory reactions, which can spread to teeth-supportive ligaments and bone; long haulers undoubtedly fall into that hyper category.
Lack of research in relation to COVID-19 and tooth loss is why dentists have differing theories on this apparent long-term symptom. Some don’t necessarily believe the virus itself causes tooth loss, but that the lockdowns and financial stress means people postpone or cancel dental appointments that could have prevented such a progression.
Our interpretation of COVID-19 expands with every variant. Currently there are four: Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma. No originality there; and every one – being a mutation – is slightly different. The Delta variant for instance, causes a more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated people, causes more infections, and spreads faster than earlier forms of the virus.
Comparable to a propogating triffid bursting millions of seeds into the air. Maybe too, coronavirus will take two years to regrow its stinger.
So, Can “Long Covid” Cause Your Teeth To Fall Out?
Curiously, just as John Wyndham’s 1951 novel The Day of the Triffids brings into question the utility of individualism during the apocalypse, COVID-19 has people losing their identity. Whether through the death of family and friends to the virus, the loss of their job, daily routine, personal connections and celebrated milestones, losing the idea that we’re in control of our lives is the shock awakening to how easily and frequently we keep losing parts of our world that seemed safe and certain. The shortfall of self comes from the fact that we all now exist in a shared situation: less a lawyer, labourer or manager than one individual against an invasive menace. And like a triffid, COVID-19 is most certainly “… an unusual and terrifying source.”
COVID-19 will be here until we’re all long in the tooth when you’re fortunate enough to still have some. It’s not definitive that these reported experiences are strictly due to the virus; it could be a covid coincidence of cancelled dental appointments. The only fact we have, is that good oral hygiene and six monthly check-ups are imperative to preventing tooth loss.
To quote John Wyndham, “But it is an inescapable conclusion that life has to be dynamic and not static. Change is bound to come one way or another..”
Be dynamic with your dental health. Change the disregard you may have had for the importance of regular visits with your dentist, and get to those appointments come one way or another.
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