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Trio of organizations agree more research needed on COVID-19’s effect on oral health

American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology: Tongue conditions described in British article are common, may be unrelated to COVID-19

February 12, 2021

By David Burger

The ADA, American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology and the American Academy of Periodontology agree in a Feb. 12 press statement that there is value in additional research on oral health conditions that may be related to COVID-19.

An NBC News story in January noted a British researcher suggested “COVID tongue” may be another symptom of SARS-CoV-2.

Research published Feb. 1 in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology reported that people with COVID-19 who had severe gum disease appeared to be at greater risk of more severe effects of COVID-19.  A different study, in the British Journal of Dermatology, published in September 2020, reported on skin and tongue abnormalities found in some patients with COVID-19.

According to the American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, however, the tongue conditions described in the British Journal of Dermatology article are very common conditions and may be unrelated to COVID-19.

“One condition, in which the side of the tongue has scalloped grooves, may be caused by the tongue rubbing against teeth,” according to the press statement. “The other condition, known as ‘geographic tongue,’ appears as red patches with white, tan or yellow-colored borders on the surface of the tongue. Geographic tongue is typically harmless and usually disappears and reappears on its own.”

While such lesions may not be related to COVID-19, ADA researchers note they have received reports from colleagues of similar cases from patients who have had COVID-19.

According to the press statement, “The ADA has been tracking developments of tongue and mouth issues COVID-19 patients experience since early on in the pandemic. Oral health is an important and vital part of overall health, and the ADA is continuing to examine the connection between the two as it relates to COVID-19.”

All three dental organizations agree that patients who may be concerned about their oral health are encouraged to see a dentist for an evaluation and, if needed, referral to a specialist. They further agree that maintaining good oral hygiene and visiting the dentist regularly contribute to overall wellness.