Illustration of a woman surrounded by a list of the oral symptoms of COVID-19. The symptoms are loss of taste and smell, dry mouth, excessive saliva, rashes in the mouth, oral ulcers, angular cheilitis and bad breath.

Chest pain, difficulty breathing and fever are three signs of COVID-19 that are frequently discussed, but there is evidence that COVID-19 could have oral symptoms as well.

Oral symptoms of COVID-19

Gum disease and the severity of COVID-19

Periodontal pockets could be a favorable reservoir for the virus that causes COVID-19, according to research published in Medical Hypotheses (October 2020).

There is also some evidence that inflammation caused by periodontal disease could contribute to the severity of a patient’s COVID-19 symptoms. This is because inflammation prompts the release of interleukin-6 (IL-6), which can damage tissue in the lungs and blood vessels. Damage to these body parts can lessen the amount of oxygen a person gets and contribute to COVID-19 progressing faster.

COVID-19 joins a number of other diseases worsened by the presence of periodontitis, including diseases of the brain, heart and lungs.

Problems with diagnosis

Oral complications because of a COVID-19 infection have been poorly described and potentially underreported, likely due to the fact that most oral symptoms are unlikely to be fatal or dangerous. This has left gaps in the early diagnosis of the onset and characterization of such symptoms, as well as their associations with COVID-19 outcomes.

One of the problems with treating COVID-19 is that two people rarely have the exact same symptoms. Some people infected with the disease may only experience loss of smell, while others experience many other symptoms. Further research will provide a greater understanding of how the coronavirus interacts with the body. As dentists become aware of the variety of oral symptoms associated with COVID-19, they may even be able to use that information to detect otherwise asymptomatic cases in their patients.