Gum Disease Can Increase COVID Risks, Severity

added on: February 9, 2021

For the most part, Americans are generally proactive in maintaining good health. To minimize the risks for health problems that can result from “what flies through the air” during the cold and flu season, many adults take steps such as annual flu shots, coughing or sneezing into a tissue, and regular hand washing.

Now, with the COVID virus, people have become especially cautious when it comes to exposure. Prevention now has a whole, new meaning. Yet, the need for grocery store visits, pumping gas, and going to the drug store are still part of our lives. To minimize the risks of exposure, the CDC has advised masks, social distancing and hand washing to reduce the risks of contracting it.

Although there remain people who are wary of dental visits, there is new evidence that shows how avoiding dental care may actually increase the potential to contract the virus. And, poor oral health can increase its severity, and even fatality rates.

If you haven’t been to a dentist’s office since the pandemic began, dental offices are open and accepting patients, although with a number of changes. In our Shelby Township MI dental office, we have added guidelines that go far above those recommended by the CDC. After all, our staff want to stay as safe as we want to extend to our patients.

We have always been highly focused on infection control measures. Before reopening our dental office in June 2020, we added a high-grade air filtration unit throughout the practice. Advanced cleaning measures and patient spacing are added to double-masking. Your clinical caregivers are also gowned, gloved, and in face shields that protect you and them even further.

According to findings shared by the American Dental Association’s “ADA Science & Research Institute & Health Policy Institute,”
“fewer than 1% of dentists nationwide were estimated to be COVID-19 positive as of June.”

The study was published in the November issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

Dental care has been deemed by Congress as “essential healthcare,” which supports the need for maintaining good oral health. As far as preventive measures for gum disease and tooth loss, having good oral health has been shown to support good overall health.

The bacteria of periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and trigger inflammatory reactions. These reactions can worsen some serious health conditions and even activate others. Research has found correlations between these bacteria and heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, some cancers (including pancreatic), preterm babies, erectile dysfunction, and Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study has found that individuals with gum disease who contract COVID-19 are alarmingly nine times more likely to die. The study also shows that COVID patients are three times more likely to end up in intensive care or on a ventilator if they already suffer from periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease. Overall, patients with gum disease are nearly 4 times more likely to suffer from COVID complications.

This is not only a particular concern for U.S. citizens, it’s a worldwide warning. About 50% of the world’s population over the age of 30 suffer from periodontitis, commonly known as gum disease. Because gum disease can begin without obvious symptoms, or be present without having pain, it is too easily ignored. This allows the disease to progress further.

When the symptoms of gum disease do occur, they can include swollen and tender gums that bleed easily when brushing teeth. The gums change color, going from a healthy pink hue to more of a red color. As it worsens, breath odor becomes persistently bad and the gums begin to loosen their strong grip around the base of teeth.
In advanced periodontal disease, pus pockets form around the base of some teeth. As the infectious bacteria attack the bone and tissue structures beneath the gum line, teeth may loosen. Some will require removal.

During all this, the bacteria causing so much inflammatory destruction in the mouth are being released into the bloodstream. When an individual associates these bacteria with activators for things like cancer and Alzheimer’s, the seriousness of having a healthy mouth takes on new meaning.

If you’ve avoided dental exams and cleanings or other necessary treatment for your oral health because of COVID concerns, it’s not just your smile that may be at risk. If you are concerned about your safety and our infection control measures, call our office to discuss your concerns: 586-739-2155. You can also review our patient appointment protocols at: Dr. Barbat’s Patient Safety Protocols

In the past, gum disease has been associated with other lung conditions including asthma, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Knowing how vulnerable gum disease can make you to COVID should be motivation to get your oral health in tip top shape!

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Dr. Ban R. Barbat

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