Do you have good oral hygiene habits? Brushing your teeth regularly and maintaining proper oral care can play a big role in the fight against COVID-19. According to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, COVID-19 patients are almost nine times more likely to die if they have gum disease.
A study of more than 500 patients also found that those with gum disease were 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care and 4.5 times more likely to need a ventilator. In addition, coronavirus patients with gum disease were at least three times more likely to experience complications.
Blood markers indicating inflammation in the body were significantly higher in COVID-19 patients who had gum disease compared to those who did not, suggesting that inflammation may explain the raised complication rates.
“The results of the study suggest that the inflammation in the oral cavity may open the door to the coronavirus becoming more violent,” said Professor Lior Shapira, president-elect of the European Federation of Periodontology. “Oral care should be part of the health recommendations to reduce the risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes,” added Shapira.
Periodontitis causes inflammation of the gums and is a serious form of gum disease that affects up to half of all adults worldwide. If left untreated, inflammation can spread throughout the body. COVID-19 is associated with an inflammatory response that may be fatal. This study investigated the relationship between periodontitis and COVID-19 complications.
The study, which was conducted in Qatar, included 568 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 between February and July 2020. Of those, 40 had complications, which lead to intensive care unit [ICU] admission, ventilator requirement, or death. Other factors including body mass index, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, blood pressure and smoking also were taken into account in COVID-19 complications. Data also were obtained on blood levels of chemicals related to inflammation in the body.
The chances of death for COVID-19 patients with gum disease was 8.81 times higher than others, while the chances of ending up in intensive care or on a ventilator were 3.54 and 4.57 times greater, respectively.
“If a causal link is established between periodontitis and increased rates of adverse outcomes in COVID-19 patients, then establishing and maintaining periodontal health may become an important part of the care of these patients,” the authors wrote.
Professor Mariano Sanz of the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, one of the authors, said that oral bacteria in patients with periodontitis can be inhaled and infect the lungs. “This may contribute to the deterioration of patients with COVID-19 and raise the risk of death. Hospital staff should identify COVID-19 patients with periodontitis and use oral antiseptics to reduce transmission of bacteria,” he said.
Shapira said the link between periodontitis and lung diseases including asthma, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is well established. “This study adds further evidence to the links between oral health and respiratory conditions. Periodontitis is a common disease but can be prevented and treated,” Shapira added.
What you can do to prevent gum disease
- Brush your teeth carefully more than once a day using a manual or powered toothbrush.
- Clean between your teeth daily using an interdental brush (or floss if the gaps are too tight).
- Specific mouth rinses or toothpastes can be used on top of cleaning to reduce inflammation.
- Do not smoke, maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet, exercise, reduce stress.
- If you have diabetes, control your blood sugar.