A theory that gum disease could be the main risk factor for developing severe COVID-19 has been developed by Dr Graham Lloyd-Jones, Consultant Radiologist at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, working with international researchers.

The scientific hypothesis highlights the importance of good oral hygiene during illness with COVID-19. It explains that the virus is found in saliva and that the first step the virus takes on its way to the lungs could be through damaged gums. It would then enter the bloodstream and pass into the blood vessels of the neck and chest, through the heart, and to the lung blood vessels.

Dr Lloyd-Jones said: “The risk factors for severe COVID-19 and gum disease are the same. It could be that gum disease is a converging and principal risk factor for severe COVID-19.”

The researchers are working to prove the theory but in the meantime say that simple oral healthcare measures should be encouraged in the community, hospitals, and nursing homes. Keeping a healthy mouth may potentially lower the risk of developing severe COVID-19. Using specific over-the-counter mouthwashes shown to kill SARS-CoV-2, could help lower the risk of transmission of the virus from the mouth to the lungs.