Earlier this week while holding a press conference, Representative Louie Gohmert appeared to lose a tooth live on camera in what's been described (quite accurately) as "a real life stress dream".
As well as freaking out and asking important questions such as "did he swallow or spit it out", beneath a video that's been widely circulated people have been speculating wildly that the "tooth loss" (in reality, he lost a crown) was linked to Covid-19.
The Recount themselves implied a possible link to Covid-19, writing "we're not saying this is related. But Louie Gohmert did have COVID," and linking to a New York Times article about people who have had Covid-19 and then gone on to suffer tooth loss.
While he lost a crown, it appears from the comments that people believe tooth loss to be a symptom of Covid-19, which we thought was worth looking into, to allay some fears.
So far there is no solid evidence that Covid-19 can lead to tooth loss, other than anecdotes - such as those described in the New York Times piece - of people losing teeth after infection. Cases described included a 43-year-old woman with a history of dental problems, as well as a 12-year-old boy without any prior problems who lost one of his adult teeth.
While it's possible that Covid-19 could cause an exacerbation of previous dental conditions, there is no concrete evidence or data on the subject just yet. Many dental practices around the world remain closed or are operating at limited capacity due to the high-Covid risk of the work, as a lot of dental treatments will by their nature cause mouth fluids to fly just about everywhere. It's perfectly possible this lack of dental care could have caused an increase in tooth loss, as well as preventing dentists from getting the data we need to determine if this is an effect of Covid-19.
However, so that you don't freak out, dentists are sceptical that the virus could cause it, especially in people without prior gum disease.
"While inflammation caused by COVID-19 may exacerbate a pre-existing gum condition, it would seem unlikely that the coronavirus alone would cause tooth loss," dentist Ollie Jupes - who goes under the pseudonym Dentist Gone Badd on Twitter - told IFLScience.
"It may be that because of the debilitation caused by the virus - particularly in the case of people suffering from long-COVID, usual oral hygiene regimes aren’t being adhered to."
If there is a role of Covid-19 in tooth loss, it is likely to be that it exacerbates other conditions such as gum disease.
"Gum disease and tooth loss occurs as a result of the body’s response to the pathogenic bacteria that live in plaque, the sticky film that gathers on the teeth," Jupes said. "In an attempt to fight the bugs, the gums become inflamed with components of the immune system. An unfortunate side effect of the body’s response is that these inflammatory products also cause not only damage to the gums, but damage to the ligament (periodontal) which holds the teeth in their sockets."
It gets worse.
"The inflammation also causes loss of the supporting bone if the disease is not controlled. Usually, this occurs over many years."
If you're worried about the possibility of Covid-19 contributing to inflammation, the solution is about as dentist-y as it gets.
"The answer would still appear to be to remove the plaque," Jupes told IFLScience. "Brush your teeth thoroughly."