As we’ve mentioned previously in our Aloha Dental blog, decades worth of research has found significant evidence that links our oral health with our overall health. Patients who develop gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss have a significantly higher risk for developing a range of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
If that wasn’t reason enough to continue brushing and flossing, a new study now suggest that gum disease may raise a patient’s risk for hospitalization or death if they contract COVID-19.
How is COVID Linked to Gum Disease?
Hearing that COVID may be linked to gum disease asks a simple question – how?
Gum disease can be a sign that inflammation has developed throughout the body, not just the mouth.
“It’s well established that systemic inflammation is not only linked with gum disease, but to several other respiratory diseases as well,” wrote researchers from the American Academy of Periodontology.
“Therefore, maintaining healthy teeth and gums in an effort to avoid developing or worsening cases of gum disease is absolutely crucial in the midst of a global pandemic like COVID-19, which is also known to trigger an inflammatory response,” wrote the team in a press release covering their findings.
The fact that poor oral health can contribute to worse cases of COVID is especially concerning to oral health professionals that have seen a decline in confidence from patients about visiting the dentist.
Since the steps most people take to lower their risk for contracting the virus – wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing, and avoiding gathering indoors with non-family members – are simply not possible when receiving dental care, many patients no longer feel confident in receiving the care their teeth and gums require to stay healthy.
The COVID Connection
As part of their study, researches compared COVID-19 patients who had developed severe complications from the virus – including the need for assisted ventilation, admission into intensive care, and death – to those patients that did not develop any severe complications.
Of the 569 patients whose COVID cases were examined by the research team, those with periodontitis – a severe form of gum disease – were at least three times more likely to develop severe COVID complications when compared to those with healthy gums.
Researchers also discovered that COVID-19 patients with periodontitis had increased levels of biomarkers that have been linked to severe COVID cases, including white blood cell levels C-reactive proteins, and D-dimer.
The results of this study were published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.
Why Inflammation Matters
Systemic inflammation is a symptom of COVID-19, and can also be a symptom in patients with gum disease.
Inflammation is the root cause of all systemic disease in the body. When inflammation develops in the body, it triggers an immune system response. In many cases, this immune system response works to correct and treat the underlying issue. However, when the inflammation is chronic, the immune system can actually have the opposite effect. The body can actually inadvertently harm healthy tissues and cells.
To stay healthy, patients need to avoid inflammation whenever possible.
The results of this study demonstrate the importance of practicing quality oral hygiene during the pandemic, according to researchers.
When left untreated, gum disease can cause gum tissue to bleed, persistent bad breath, and even permanent tooth loss. Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have some form of gum disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Protecting Your Health
As we’ve stated before in our Aloha Dental blog, protecting your oral health, and the overall health of your body, starts at home. You can significantly reduce your risk for gum disease and all of the health problems it brings by practicing three simple steps:
- Brush at least twice a day for two minutes.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Schedule and keep regular exams and cleaning with our team at Aloha Dental.
That’s it! By making your oral hygiene a priority you can lower your risk for disease. During a time when we all need our immune systems to function properly, the pandemic makes a poor excuse to skip the steps that make it possible to enjoy the best oral health possible.
If you have any questions about COVID’s connection with your oral health, feel free to ask any member of our team during your next visit to Aloha Dental.