Mexico’s Health Undersecretary Hugo López-Gatell made headlines recently when he attributed COVID-19 to drinking sugary beverages. López-Gatell reasoned that because sugary drinks like soda or fruit juices contribute to obesity, they also may contribute to some of the medical conditions which make COVID-19 especially severe in some patients. These conditions include diabetes, heart disease, and of course obesity. But while he isn’t wrong that these beverages could contribute to these conditions, is he right that they are to blame for COVID-19?
The short answer is no- or at least we don’t have any solid proof that sodas and sugary drinks are to blame for COVID-19 symptoms, even in part.
What we do know about sugary beverages is that they do contribute to another serious medical condition: dental caries, or cavities. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Approximately 91 percent of U.S. adults aged 20–64 had dental caries in permanent teeth in 2011–2012,” and according to the World Dental Federation, a staggering 3.9 billion people around the world have cavities!
Cavities are in fact so common, they are considered a top health crisis in the world, with some rural areas lacking access to dental care and others lacking insurance or the financial means to afford dental care.
But cavities aren’t the only oral health problem that may come from sugary beverage consumption. Gum disease is a very serious problem that can contribute to diabetes as well, and if having diabetes can worsen COVID-19 severity, that could be another danger of not taking care of your teeth.
So, what can you do to reduce your oral health and COVID-19 risks? We’ve likely already heard to wash our hands, maintain social distancing, wear a mask or face covering, and self-quarantine if we’ve been sick or exposed to someone known to have the coronavirus, but brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day can reduce our risks of cavities and gum disease. Also, watching our sugar intake and limiting our consumption of sugary beverages like sodas and fruit juice may also help reduce our risk of cavities and gum disease, too.