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So, the oral cavity is one of the main gateways for the coronavirus into our body. Also the mouth suffers a lot due to this infection, in fact it is one of the most vulnerable sites. This mainly occurs due to the presence of ACE ( Angiotensine Converting Enzyme) inhibitors and an enzyme called TRPRSS (transmembrane protease serine 2). It has been well documented that these cells are the main channel of entry for the virus into the human body.
These are abundantly present in the oral tissues pf the tongue, tonsils and the inner surface of the lips. Hence the virus can affect the mouth and its tissues to a large extent. Some of the common symptoms to look out for in the mouth are:
- Dysguesia or loss of taste – Since the taste buds are on the dorsal surface of the tongue, when the virus infects the ACE inhibitors on the cells of the tongue this occurs. The patient generally tends to lose sweet and salty taste.
- Xerostomia or dryness of the mouth – many patients complain of a severe dry feeling in the mouth with minimal salivary flow. The main reason this occurs is due to the salivary glands being affected by the virus. This causes swelling and blockage in the gland ducts, thereby severely affecting the salivary flow. This can occur due to various reasons like mouth breathing which is often seen in patients infected with the Virus. Since this is a respiratory virus, the cold and congestion leads to breathing from the mouth. This can also be seen as a side effect of certain medications. Also in some cases stress and anxiety can also cause a dry mouth.
- Painful ulcers – This has been reported in a brazillian study where they examined the oral cavity of COVID positive patients and in eight of the patients they found the presence of these ulcers. These are usually present towards the back of the tongue.
There are also certain side effects of COVID which can be seen in the mouth like:
- Fractured Teeth – cracked or chipped teeth is a common complaint nowadays in many patents. This generally occurs due to grinding or clenching of teeth especially at night. This is a common side effect of stress, anxiety and also in some cases fear. With the current massive wave of infections and illness this has become a common complaint.
- Pain in the jaws and TMJ – this has again become a problem often faced by many patient. This also occurs when the emotional wellbeing of the patient is affected and they tend to clench their teeth or tighten their jaws without realising. They usually complain of pain and tightness in the jaws, TMJ and in some cases pain radiating to the head and neck region.
- Worsening of gum disease like in some patients we see severe gingivitis and periodontitis due to various reasons but mainly due to the cytokine storm that occurs due to the inflammation in the body after the infection. This can lead to worsening of the periodontal disease.
- Hence the above are some of the factors that can serve as early indicators of the infection. They should be taken into consideration by both dentists and other physicians when examining a patient. With the current pandemic raging across the world, it may be prudent to examine the oral cavity or the mouth of the patient when consulting.