Brushing your teeth more often could help reduce the risk of catching coronavirus, a professor has claimed.

Martin Addy, a dentistry professor at the University of Bristol, argues brushing your teeth whenever you leave the house could help keep Covid-19 at bay. 

He says this is because most toothpastes contain detergents, like those in antibacterial hand gels.

As the virus is often spread by saliva and coughing droplets moving through the air, more regular brushing might help kill the virus before they have a chance to be passed on.

He told The Telegraph: “Toothpaste contains the same detergents as those found in handwash gels.

"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."

The professor even offered specific advice about when you should brush your teeth.

He added: “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.”

Second expert backs benefits of tackling saliva risk

Professor Addy is not the only one who supports the theory oral hygiene could be a factor in fighting the virus.

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

He added: “Research has demonstrated that poor oral hygiene is an important factor that could influence occurrence of respiratory infection.

"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.”

Theory hard to test

But official advice - from the likes of the World Health Organisation and the NHS - does not make any mention of oral hygiene or the potential of toothpaste to kill off Covid-19.

That could be because although greater oral hygiene has its benefits, suggesting it could be important in the fight against the virus might be pushing it a bit far.

Another expert told The Independent the theory would be hard to test.

Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: “I think proving that regular brushing of teeth does or does not protect against Covid-19 (and I personally doubt that it does have any useful effect) would be very difficult.”

He added: “This brings back memories of some senior politician or other suggesting disinfection as a cure/prevention strategy and that was roundly dismissed by the medical community at the time.”

Evidence suggests 'little benefit'

Dr Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, also doubts the evidence.

He said: “There has been a long interest in oral health care in patients who are hospitalised with pneumonia, and that includes brushing of the patients teeth along with use of antiseptic mouthwashes.

“In relation to the pneumonia, the evidence base at the moment suggests little benefit from tooth-brushing of seriously ill patients.

"The use of toothpaste or mouthwash as a way to reduce Covid-19 across the community in non-hospitalised has also been raised previously, but at the moment it remains just a theory.”

Official advice to prevent Covid-19 infection

The NHS website has advice on reducing your risk of catching coronavirus.

Tips include:

  • try to stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone you do not live with (or anyone not in your support bubble)
  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • wash your hands as soon as you get home
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards

The NHS offers no official advice on toothpaste and the virus.