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The letter, “Dentists Fighting Covid” states, in part: “We believe your recommendation is irresponsible, unsubstantiated and dead wrong."
When leaders of the World Health Organization (WHO) published their recent recommendation urging people to postpone dental appointments until after the pandemic, many dentists were shocked. Renowned for maintaining the cleanest equipment, medical procedures, and personal protective equipment (PPE), industry experts believe dental offices have set a world standard in minimizing the risk to patients of aerosol transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
In fact, since the pandemic began, many have added filters, N95 masks, antimicrobial sprays and ozone machines to their exam rooms and now require patients as well as dentists and their staff to submit to temperature checks before an exam is allowed to proceed.
However, beyond these precautions many dentists believe there is a more urgent reason to allow dental visits, which typically include a cleaning and check for periodontal disease, to continue unabated, according to a release.
Recently, a letter outlining these concerns was sent to WHO senior managers in Geneva, Switzerland from “Dentists Fighting Covid,” an international, ad hoc group of dentists from at least 16 different countries, including the U.S. Germany, South Africa, Brazil, Israel, Sweden, Italy, Dubai, Australia, the UK, and more. The group was formed recently because of their shared, grave concerns about the WHO announcement.
The “Dentists Fighting Covid” letter states, in part: “We believe your recommendation is irresponsible, unsubstantiated and dead wrong. Further, we believe that, if heeded, your recommendation will jeopardize the health of millions of dental patients worldwide and...will increase the severity of life-threatening complications for those who’ve contracted COVID-19.”
A team of gum disease/COVID researchers, led by Doctors Carla Pontes, Shervin Molayem and Victoria Sampson, recently found a disturbing link between the bacteria produced by swollen, red, bleeding gums and bone loss – symptoms of chronic periodontitis – and COVID-19, the virus and global pandemic that’s claimed more than 850,000 lives worldwide.
Their peer-reviewed research, published in the British Dental Journal and the Journal of the California Dental Association, suggest that high levels of IL-6 (Interleukin-6), a harmful protein produced by gum disease bacteria, can jeopardize the health of COVID patients, increasing their risk of suffering from life threatening respiratory problems, making it difficult for patients to breathe without the help of a ventilator.
Their research, available in a publication titled “The Mouth-COVID Connection” (MCC), describes the IL-6 protein as the chemical culprit that makes COVID-19 so deadly.
“As any dentist will tell you, there is an abundance of science supporting the fact that oral hygiene protects dental patients from a range of seemingly unrelated health problems, including stroke, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, and cancer,” says Molayem, dental surgeon, MCC researcher and founder of Dentists Fighting COVID. “But now, with our latest research into the connection between gum disease and COVID-19, dental checkups, including cleaning and testing for gum disease, are more important than ever!”
In his recommendation, Benoit Varenne, Ph.D., chief dental officer at WHO, says “routine non-essential oral health care, which usually includes check-ups, cleanings and preventive care, should be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates.” Dentists worldwide who support the letter sent to WHO, however, regard all dental visits as essential.
In addition, MCC researcher Carla Pontes, points to the fact that there are no documented cases of someone getting COVID from their dentist, or a dentist getting COVID from a patient.
“Untreated dental disease is only going to get worse because patients worldwide are afraid of going to their dentist,” says Pontes. “Because of the precautions most dentists are taking – precautions patients can confirm by phone before their appointment – and because of the greater risk gum disease poses to COVID 19 patients we must encourage patients to see their dentists in this pandemic. This is precisely why we demand that WHO rescind their recommendation.”
Pontes, Molayem ,and Sampson, supported by dentists in at least 16 different countries, encourage patients worried about their oral health to get checked for gum disease as soon as possible, despite the WHO recommendation. Supported by recent research, they believe that for many people, particularly the elderly with compromised immune systems, a trip to the dentist during this pandemic may play a role in saving their life.