Recent Study Links Gum Disease with Severe COVID Cases

A recently published scientific study contains some important information connecting patients with gum disease to severe complications with COVID-19.  When coronavirus first hit our shores about a year ago, it was a novel disease that we did not know much about.  Doctors and scientists hypothesized many potential risk factors that could worsen the outcome of infection with COVID-19, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

After a year of fighting and studying this infection, we have more information, though we still do not completely understand it.  New studies are continually emerging that can help us learn more about the coronavirus and its effects on the human body.  It’s probably safe to say that no one wants to suffer from severe complications of COVID-19 infection.

What Does the Study Say?

This particular study followed patients with severe complications from COVID-19, including hospital admissions and death.  When comparing the patients who had severe COVID complications to those who did not, they found that more than 80% of the patients with severe COVID complications had periodontal disease.  This contrasts those patients who tested positive for COVID but did not suffer severe complications; in this group, only 43% had periodontal disease.  This means the study found a correlation between patients with chronic gum disease and those suffering greater complications from COVID.  This does not meant hat gum disease causes the worsened outcomes.  It simply means that those with gum disease have a higher risk for those severe complications.

What Causes the Link between Gum Disease and COVID-19 Complications?

The study did not identify a specific mechanism of correlation between the two diseases.  Based on the connection of other health conditions with COVID, scientists suggest that this link relates to the chronic inflammation that gum disease causes in the body.

Periodontal disease begins as a bacterial infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth.  These bacteria produce toxins that penetrate the surrounding jawbone, ligaments and gum tissues.  When the body senses these toxins, it mounts an inflammatory response.  The initial inflammation (called acute) is a good thing.  It works to bring blood flow and reparative defense cells to an area of injury.  The problem with inflammation is that, when you do not address its underlying cause (in the case of gum disease, the bacterial buildup on the teeth), it transitions from acute to chronic.  Chronic inflammation is bad.  It is destructive in nature, and when prolonged, it can weaken the body’s immune system.

Most likely, this weakened state caused by the chronic inflammation of gum disease is the source of the risk for more severe complications from COVID.

Who is At Risk?

Patients with chronic gum disease, or periodontitis, are at risk for developing complications when infected with COVID-19.  This means that people who have untreated gum disease, and have had it for years, are likely in a state of chronic inflammation with a weakened immune system.  Not only does this place you at a higher risk for getting sick more easily; it elevates the risk for a severe case of COVID.]

If you or a loved one have missed several years of dental appointments, you may be at risk.  If you notice consistent bad breath, large plaque buildup on the teeth, loose teeth, or food impaction between your teeth, you are definitely at risk.

How Can I Protect Myself and My Loved Ones?

Maintaining your overall health and a healthy immune system is one of the most important weapons we have against severe cases of COVID-19.  People often forget that your oral health plays a vital role in your overall health.  You cannot be completely healthy without a healthy mouth.

In order to keep your immune system in a state that is good and ready to fight infection, you should work toward good gum health.  This can mean different things to different people.  For some, it means returning to a consistent schedule of professional teeth cleanings.  For others, it may mean having diseased teeth extracted.  Your dentist will prescribe a customized treatment plan to accomplish what you specifically need to have a healthy mouth.

The first step is making an appointment!  We know that many people have avoided dental visits due to fear of virus transmission.  You can read our previous blogs to learn what safety precautions we are taking to protect you and ourselves from COVID-19.

More Questions about COVID-19 and Gum Disease?

Call Timberlake Dental at 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can assess your risk for gum disease and recommend any treatment you need to reduce that risk.

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