Gum Disease Links Part 1: COVID-19
January 19th, 2021
After over nine months of dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we know that the illness affects every individual differently. Much is still unknown about the virus, as doctors and scientists are still discovering how it impacts both healthy individuals and those with underlying health issues. While research is still emerging, initial studies suggest that there is a direct link between gum disease (periodontitis) and COVID-19.
WHAT IS GUM DISEASE?
Gum disease is an infection that damages the soft tissue around your teeth and can potentially destroy the bone that supports your teeth, leading to loose teeth or tooth loss. It typically develops due to untreated plaque on your teeth and can lead to other health problems, like respiratory disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Age, stress, medications, genetics, smoking, and poor oral hygiene are among the leading risk factors for gum disease. The most common signs and symptoms are swollen or puffy gums, bright red or purple gums, bleeding gums, bad breath, painful chewing, receding gum lines, and more. If you start to notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your dentist immediately.
ARE PEOPLE WITH GUM DISEASE AT RISK OF MORE SEVERE COVID-19 COMPLICATIONS?
A recent study by the California Dental Association suggests that people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 were more likely to experience respiratory failure if they had gum disease before becoming infected.
GUM DISEASE AND COVID-19
Researcher and dental surgeon Shervin Molayem, DDS, says that since gum disease has been linked to other breathing ailments, including pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it’s not surprising to find there’s a link to respiratory problems with COVID-19.
People with gum disease are prone to systemic inflammation, which can lead to periodontal pockets and allows bacteria in the gums. The Mouth COVID Connection study conducted by Dr. Molayem found that COVID-19 is more severe in the presence of inflammation. Additionally, poor plaque control can negatively affect the lungs of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
The study also indicates that COVID-19 patients with gum disease typically have higher interleukin (IL-6) levels, a harmful protein produced by periodontitis, and are more likely to suffer from acute respiratory problems. For hospitalized COVID-19 patients, this means they are more at risk to be put on a ventilator.
TIPS TO PREVENT GUM DISEASE
Since there is such a strong link between gum disease and the coronavirus, it is imperative that you keep up with your oral hygiene routine and continue to visit your dentist. If you’re uncomfortable going into the office, it would be beneficial to see if your dentist offers virtual appointments.
Here are some other ways you can prevent gum disease:
- Brush your teeth after each meal and before you go to bed
- Avoid anti-inflammatory foods
- Reduce sugar and processed carb intake
- Use a gentle, sulfate-free toothpaste
- Rinse with a germ-killing mouthwash after you brush
- Clean between your teeth regularly to remove plaque
- Receive regular cleanings from your dentist
When you practice good oral hygiene, you are improving your overall health and minimizing the additional risks gum disease could cause if you were to be infected with COVID-19.
GUM DISEASE AND OTHER HEALTH COMPLICATIONS
There is a growing body of scientific evidence and research that supports how gum disease is associated with other health complications. This article is the first in a series that will examine the links between gum disease and other health issues, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
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