NEW YORK(VINnews) — As countries rush to find an effective vaccine against coronavirus, many scientists are asking what can be done to prevent the spread of the virus in the meantime. Official guidance calls for masks, social distancing of at least two meters and washing hands regularly, but dental experts suggest that proper oral hygiene can also serve as a buffer against the spread of the virus. Brushing teeth before leaving the house could help to offset the virus’s effect because most toothpastes and mouthwashes contain detergents with anti-viral qualities, similar to those in hand sanitizers, which could dampen the effect of the virus.

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Coronavirus spreads in much the same way as the common cold or flu – through infected respiratory droplets like coughs and sneezes – and passes from person to person.

This can happen when an infectious person gets the virus on their hands and then touches a commonly used surface, such as a door handle, which someone else then touches or when a person gets close to (less than one to two metres) someone who is infectious.

However, according to Professor Martin Addy, a dentistry professor at the University of Bristol, brushing your teeth whenever you leave home could help ward off Covid-19.

Addy says that “Toothpaste contains the same detergents as those found in handwash gels recommended.

“The antimicrobial action of toothpaste in the mouth persists for three to five hours and, thereby, would reduce the viral load in saliva or infection by viruses entering the mouth,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“For the vast majority, the timing of tooth brushing should be focused when they are about to go out of their homes for exercise or shopping. Ideally, tooth brushing frequency should be increased.”

Michael Lewis, a professor of oral medicine from Cardiff, agrees and says spending four minutes a day on cleaning your teeth “has never been so important.”

“Research has demonstrated that poor oral hygiene is an important factor that could influence occurrence of respiratory infection,” he said. “This is especially relevant at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. The public needs to appreciate the benefit of good oral hygiene.

”Covid-19 spreads via saliva and this is the basis of the need for social distancing. Toothpastes and mouthwashes contain substances, similar to those in hand sanitizers, that have antiviral actions and these could also impact the ability of the Covid-19 to spread which is obviously an additional benefit of a good oral hygiene regimen.

Other experts disagree, citing the fact that droplets can infect through the nose and can be inhaled back into the throat in which case the antiviral substances in the teeth would not help prevent the spread of the virus. Moreover the virus binds to cells and once there it is protected from surface disinfection which would only be effective just before the virus is taken into the cell.