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Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)and Covid Risk

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The following discussion of periodontal disease and Covid contains excerpts from a study lead by the McGill University.

Infected and inflamed gums may result in higher rates of complications and more fatal outcomes for individuals diagnosed with the SARS-COV-2 virus, according to a new international study led by McGill researchers recently published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology. The study suggests that gum disease may be associated with higher risks of complications from COVID-19, including ICU admission and death.

Periodontal disease has long been related to higher incidences of diabetes, heart disease and stroke risk. Researchers discovered that COVID-19 patients with gum disease were 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit, 4.5 times more likely to need a ventilator, and 8.8 times more likely to die when comparing to those without gum disease. Until now, no other research has been published about the destructive effects of gum disease in patients with COVID-19.

“Looking at the conclusions of our study we can highlight the importance of good oral health in the prevention and management of COVID-19 complications,” explains Belinda Nicolau, contributing author and Full Professor in the Faculty of Dentistry at McGill University. “There is a very strong correlation between periodontitis and disease outcome.”

What is periodontitis?

Periodontitis, also referred to as gum disease, is a serious infection of the gums that damages supporting tissues of the teeth and if left unmanaged can lead to bone loss. Plaque and tartar (calculus) can build up under the gums and harbor bacteria which cause the inflammation and infection. Gum disease is the most common dental problem in the United states and Canada, with seven out of ten affected to some degree in their lives. However, it is largely preventable by maintaining good oral hygiene through daily brushing and flossing and getting regular dental check-ups.  At Martin Dentistry periodontal disease can be treated by deep cleanings known as scaling and root planing.   This treatment removes the debris and materials causing the infection.

“Periodontitis has been considered as a risk factor for a number of both oral and systemic diseases,” explains Wenji Cai, co-author and PhD student from Faculty of Dentistry. “It's an invisible pandemic. We need to raise awareness of the disease and make more effort to maintain periodontal health, especially during this global pandemic.”

The study also found that blood levels of biomarkers which indicate inflammation in the body were significantly higher in COVID-19 patients with gum disease, which may explain the higher rates of complications for those patients. “Periodontitis causes inflammation of the gums and, if left untreated, that inflammation can spread throughout the body,” says Cai. “In patients with severe cases of COVID-19, the virus causes an inflammatory response that can lead to complications such as being intubated or even death. Our research shows that periodontitis can exacerbate this.”

This observational study crossed dental records with medical records of patients with severe cases of COVID-19 in Qatar between February and July 2020. “We included 568 patients in our study and took various factors into consideration, such as demographic, medical or behavior factors, to avoid biases,” adds Cai. 

At Martin Dentistry in Fishers and Indianapolis our hygienists will take detailed recordings and records to evaluate your risk for periodontal disease.  Treatment for your gum disease will be tailored to your specific needs.  We are concerned not just with the teeth and gums, but also how they impact your all over health.

* All information subject to change. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.