Gum Disease Linked to COVID Complications

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Gum disease linked to COVID-19 complications in new Oral Health Foundation study

A new study has found that people with advanced gum disease are much more likely to suffer complications from coronavirus, including being more likely to require a ventilator and to die from the disease [1].

The research, which examined more than 500 patients, found those with severe gum disease were up to nine times more likely to die from COVID-19. It also found that patients with the oral disease were nearly five times more likely to need assisted ventilation.

Coronavirus has now infected 115 million people worldwide with around 4.1 million coming from the UK [2,3]. Gum disease is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world. In the UK, an estimated 90% of adults have some form of gum disease [4]. According to the Oral Health Foundation, gum disease can be easily prevented, or managed in its early stages.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the charity believes keeping on top of your oral health could play a key role when it comes to battling the virus. He says: “This is the latest of many studies that form a connection between the mouth and other health conditions. The evidence here seems overwhelming – by maintaining good oral health, specifically healthy gums – you are able to limit your chances of developing the most serious complications of coronavirus.

“If left untreated, gum disease can lead to abscesses, and over several years, the bone supporting the teeth can be lost. When gum disease becomes advanced, treatment becomes more difficult. Given the new link with coronavirus complications, the need for early intervention becomes even greater.”



Dr Carter continues: “The first sign of gum disease is blood on your toothbrush or in the toothpaste you spit out after brushing. Your gums may bleed when you are eating, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Your breath may also become unpleasant. The Oral Health Foundation is keen to highlight the importance of taking early action against the signs of gum disease, following research that suggests far too many people ignore it.”

Latest figures collected by the charity show almost one-in-five Brits (19%) immediately stop brushing the bleeding area and nearly one in ten (8%) stop brushing altogether [5]

Dr Carter adds: “If your teeth begin to bleed, continue to clean your teeth and brush across gumline. Removing the plaque and tartar from around your teeth is vital for managing and preventing gum disease. The most effective way to keep gum disease at bay is to brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day and to also clean in between your teeth with interdental brushes or floss daily.

“You may also find that getting a specialised mouthwash will help. The other thing to do is contact your dental team and ask for a thorough check-up of your teeth and gums. They will measure the 'cuff' of gum around each tooth to see if there is any sign that periodontal disease has started.”

For more information about gum disease, or if you are concerned about your oral health, you can contact the charity’s Dental Helpline and speak to one their dental advisors. The Dental Helpline is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and can be reached on 01788 539780. Calls are charged at your standard network rate.

You can also visit the Oral Health Foundation’s website at www.dentalhealth.org for information and advice about oral health.

References:

1] Marouf, N., Cai, W., Said, K.N., Daas, H., Diab, H., Chinta, V.R., Hssain, A.A., Nicolau, B., Sanz, M. and Tamimi, F. (2021), Association between periodontitis and severity of COVID‐19 infection: A case–control study. J Clin Periodontol. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpe.13435

2] Coronavirus Worldometer, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ (accessed March 2021)

3] Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK, Daily Update, GOV.UK, https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/ (accessed March 2021)

4] University of Birmingham (2015) ‘Nearly all of us have gum disease – so let's do something about it’ online at https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/thebirminghambrief/items/2015/05/nearly-all-of-us-have-gum-disease-28-05-15.aspx (accessed February 2021)

5] Oral Health Foundation (2019) ‘National Smile Month Survey 2019’, Atomik Research, United Kingdom, Sample Size 2,003