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Dentists take note: your patients who have contracted Covid-19 and recovered are at heightened risk for problems in the oral cavity and/or facial abnormalities. 

Researchers in Italy enrolled 122 Covid-19 survivors roughly three months after hospital discharge and performed thorough extra-oral and intra-oral examinations. The study, Frequent and persistent salivary gland ectasia and oral disease after COVID-19”, was published online on March 3, 2021 in the Journal of Dental Research

According to the researchers, none of the patients reported oral cavity disorders before becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2. However, at follow-up evaluation, 101 COVID-19 survivors (83.6%) experienced oral cavity or facial abnormalities.

Salivary gland ectasia was the single most widely reported oral cavity disorder (43%). The researchers suggested that this development is due to the hyperinflammatory response to the virus. Other common post-SARS-CoV-2 disorders included temporomandibular joint problems, facial pain, and weakness in the masticatory muscles.

The study is preliminary, and it’s not yet clear whether disease severity is the primary indicator of orofacial issues following recovery. Dentists will do well to be even more thorough in their examination of the oral cavity and to question Covid-19 survivors about facial symptoms. 

Your Patients Need To Know

The findings are significant enough that dental patients need to be made aware of the possibility of post-Covid oral and facial symptoms. 

In addition to in-office education, consider sending out a letter and/or email, posting on social media or on your blog, and/or instituting in-office informational signage. 

Patients at risk for post-Covid symptoms might benefit from a symptom list to keep their oral health even more top-of-mind. If the prevalence of salivary gland ectasia in the study is indicative, nearly half of Covid survivors may be at heightened risk for increased caries, and more frequent appointments may be indicated.

This is a developing area of research, and it’s likely that additional issues will be identified going forward.

Smartbox

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