How Deep Is the Connection Between Gum Disease and COVID-19 Complications?

Iqaluit Dental Clinic image of a person getting a routine dental checkup.
April 5, 2023 0 Comments

At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we believe your oral health has a deep connection to your overall health. In fact, your oral health can help uncover underlying health implications and underlying diseases that can go unnoticed without proper checking. Unfortunately, bad oral hygiene can also negatively affect your oral health.

In fact, it has been observed that people suffering from gum diseases often suffered from COVID-19 complications and were also included in the high-risk groups. In this article, we will discuss the connection between gum disease and COVID-19 complications, and more.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common condition that affects the gums and bones supporting the teeth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of the adults over the age of 30 in the United States have some form of gum disease. This condition can range from mild gingivitis to more severe periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.

Gum disease is caused by the buildup of plaque on the teeth, which can lead to inflammation and infection of the gums. This can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that can become infected. In more severe cases, the infection can spread to the bone supporting the teeth, causing bone loss and eventually tooth loss.

The link between gum disease and COVID-19 complications

There has been growing evidence suggesting a link between gum disease and complications from COVID-19. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology found that patients with gum disease were nine times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those without gum disease.

Another study published in the Journal of Dental Research found that COVID-19 patients with gum disease were 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and 4.5 times more likely to need a ventilator. So why is there a connection between gum disease and COVID-19 complications? The answer lies in the immune system.

The science behind the connection: the role of cytokines

When the body is infected with a virus like COVID-19, the immune system responds by producing cytokines, which are proteins that help fight off the infection. However, in some cases, the immune system can overreact and produce too many cytokines, which can lead to a condition known as a cytokine storm. This can cause severe inflammation throughout the body and lead to organ failure and even death.

Research has shown that patients with gum disease have higher levels of cytokines in their saliva and blood than those without gum disease. This suggests that gum disease can cause a chronic state of inflammation in the body. As a result, it can make it more difficult for the immune system to respond to an infection like COVID-19.

The impact of gum disease on the immune system

In addition to increasing cytokine levels, gum disease can also weaken the immune system in other ways. When the body is fighting an infection in the gums, it can divert resources away from other parts of the body, including the lungs. This can make it more difficult for the body to fight off a respiratory infection like COVID-19.

Furthermore, the bacteria that cause gum disease can enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, including the lungs. This can increase the risk of developing a secondary infection, which can worsen the symptoms of COVID-19.

Prevention and treatment of gum disease

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent and treat gum disease. The most important step is to practice good oral hygiene, including brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and using an antiseptic mouthwash. You should also visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups.

If you have gum disease, your dentist may recommend a deep cleaning procedure called scaling and root planing. This involves removing plaque and tartar from the teeth and roots and smoothing out any rough spots on the roots to prevent bacteria from sticking to them.

In some cases, your dentist may also recommend antibiotics to help control the infection. If the disease has progressed to the point where it has caused significant bone loss, you may need surgery to restore the bone and gum tissue.

COVID-19 and oral hygiene: why it matters?

Given the link between gum disease and COVID-19 complications, it’s more important than ever to prioritize your oral hygiene even after the pandemic is over. This means brushing and flossing regularly, using an antiseptic mouthwash, and visiting your dentist for checkups and cleanings.

It’s also important to be mindful of any changes in your oral health, such as bleeding gums, bad breath, or loose teeth. These can be signs of gum disease, and prompt treatment can help prevent the condition from progressing.

The importance of regular dental check-ups during the pandemic

Fortunately, the pandemic seems to be over for now. Despite the risks associated with COVID-19, it’s still important to visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. Your dentist can screen for gum disease and other oral health issues, and catch them early before they have a chance to progress.

Dental offices are taking extra precautions during the pandemic to ensure the safety of their patients and staff. This may include enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures, the use of personal protective equipment, and social distancing measures in the waiting room.

If you’re concerned about the risks of visiting the dentist during the pandemic, talk to your dentist about the precautions they’re taking and any additional steps you can take to minimize your risk. While more research is needed to fully understand the link between gum disease and COVID-19 complications, the evidence so far suggests that taking care of your oral health is more important than ever during the pandemic.

At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we suggest you brush and floss regularly, use an antiseptic mouthwash, and visit your dentist for checkups and cleanings. By prioritizing your oral health, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the risks of COVID-19 and other infections. By practising good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly, you can help prevent and treat gum disease, and reduce your risk of complications from COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.