People with severe gum disease are nine times more likely to die from COVID-19. Michael Sultan reports
The more we learn about COVID-19, the more we become aware of the strange impact it has on the human body. Just recently I stumbled across an article detailing a strange effect called Covid Toes – where sufferers of the virus form red or purple swellings on their toes due to reduced blood flow.
New details are being brought to light all the time, but something that we as dental professionals should be aware of is that there seems to be a rather harrowing link between gum disease and COVID-19. According to a new study, individuals with substantial gum disease are nine times more likely to die from the virus than those without any dental issues .
The study followed 568 patients infected with novel coronavirus and split them into two groups – those with only mild symptoms, and those who needed significant care, ventilators, or eventually died. As well as finding that people with gum disease were far more likely to die, the study also revealed that they also had a higher chance of needing a ventilator or being admitted to the ICU.
There must be a causal link, and this begins to make sense as soon as you look into the nature of COVID-19 and its effect on the body’s immune response. Excessive inflammatory response leads to more severe cases of the virus, and because periodontitis has already set off our immune system’s inflammatory response the is able to take advantage of this weakness and hit harder, leaving people far more likely to suffer from more severe illness.
What this illustrates once again, is that periodontal health is linked to general health in more ways than we had previously imagined; and the more we can do to help patients preserve their oral health, the better chance they have of leading a longer, healthier life.
The true nature of COVID-19 and its variant strains is still being investigated, but it is clear that the virus is a complex enemy which affects people differently depending on variable factors. We must take the time to hammer home the importance of defending against periodontitis – tell patients the figures from this study, emphasise the importance of regular visits to the dental hygienist.
This way we can help lower the risk for people who may be more prone to developing severe COVID-19 symptoms later down the line. Thankfully the vaccination programme is rolling out and there is light on the horizon, but meanwhile anything we can do to help prevent people from suffering unnecessarily is worthwhile and could make a massive difference.
Michael Sultan is the founder and principal of EndoCare, a leading specialist endodontic referral practice. For more information, call 020 7224 0999, or visit www.endocare.co.uk
1] Prevention. Why Covid-19 Has Been Linked to Severe Gum Disease. Link: https://www.prevention.com/health/a35534267/gum-disease-covid-19-connection/ [Last accessed February 21].
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