The Terrifying Long COVID Symptom Doctors Are Now Warning About
Experts have different theories on why this phenomenon is popping up months after infection.
For some, the coronavirus doesn't go away after a week or two. In fact, as the pandemic progresses on, more and more survivors are identifying themselves as "long-haulers." These are people who are suffering with long COVID, which has them reporting unusual symptoms that are occurring months after their initial infection. Some have reported hair loss and strange rashes. And now, doctors are warning about a terrifying new long COVID symptom: teeth falling out. Read on to find out more about this emerging symptom, and for more long-hauler news, Dr. Fauci Just Warned of These "Disturbing" Long COVID Symptoms.
Some COVID survivors have reported their teeth falling out months after having the virus.
One coronavirus survivor, a 43-year-old New York woman named Farah Khemili, told The New York Times that she lost one of her adult teeth in November after having the virus in spring—something she has never experienced before. And while Khemili had a history of dental issues, others with no prior dental trouble have reported this occurrence as well. According to the New York Times report, multiple people in the Survivor Corp group, a Facebook page for coronavirus survivors, reported teeth falling out after COVID—including the founder, who said her 12-year-old son lost an adult tooth months after having a mild case. And for more on your chances of developing long-haul COVID, If You Have These 5 Symptoms, You're at Risk of Long COVID.
One doctor says it could be the result of the virus damaging parts of the mouth.
William W. Li, MD, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, told The New York Times that loss of teeth is being examined as a possible long-term COVID symptom. According to Li, the coronavirus causes serious damage when binding to the ACE2 protein, which is located in most parts of the body, including the mouth. Therefore, it could be possible that the virus has damaged blood vessels in the mouth that keep teeth alive, Li says. This can cause teeth to fall out without any blood or pain, which is what most long-haulers are reporting. And for more on your mouth and the virus, If You Notice This in Your Mouth, You Could Have COVID, Experts Warn.
Another doctor says tooth loss could be the result of your body trying to fight COVID.
Some experts have other theories, however. Michael Scherer, DMD, a prosthodontist in Sonora, California, told The New York Times that loss of teeth could be the result of an immune response called a cytokine storm, which is where the body attacks its own cells and tissues while trying to fight off the coronavirus.
"If a COVID long-hauler’s reaction is in the mouth, it’s a defense mechanism against the virus. Gum disease is very sensitive to hyper-inflammatory reactions, and COVID long-haulers certainly fall into that category," he said. According to Medline Plus, inflammation can spread to the "ligaments and bone that support the teeth," resulting in a loss of support for the teeth, which causes teeth to become loose and eventually fall out—meaning months after a viral infection. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
However, not enough evidence has been done yet to link the symptom directly with COVID.
A lack of research on tooth loss in relation to COVID explains why doctors have differing theories on this apparent long-term symptom. Periodontist Sasha Ross, DMD, told the Cleveland Clinic that she doesn't necessarily believe that the virus itself is causing tooth loss. Instead, she attributes this phenomenon to the pandemic overall, which has caused more people to postpone or cancel yearly dental appointments. She said she suspects that these skipped appointments have caused possible issues, like periodontal disease, to progress in some people.
"In people who probably already had pretty severe periodontal disease, I have seen cases where there is no pain and the tooth is just so infected that it’s not supported by bone. This is a chronic infection, and the tooth can just fall out if it has no bone support," she said. "I don’t think that it was something that COVID-19 caused, per se, as even in non-COVID-19 times, I’ve seen that happen without bleeding or pain."
It's not an unlikely scenario, in fact: A 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 47 percent of adults 30 years or older have some form of periodontal disease, including infections and inflammation of the gums and bone that surround teeth. And for insight on the future of the pandemic, Moderna's Chief Medical Officer Just Gave This Upsetting Update.