It’s a well-known fact that your dental and oral health are both closely connected to your overall physical health. If left untreated for too long, gum disease and oral infections like periodontitis can spread to other parts of your body and can cause problems with your cardiovascular health. New research has found that there may also be a link between gum disease and an increased risk of getting COVID-19 complications in patients who have tested positive for the virus. As a result, prevention of gum disease and adopting a comprehensive at-home dental hygiene routine has never been more crucial to your health.
The Findings of the Study
A recent study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology earlier this year found that people with pre-existing periodontal or gum disease are approximately nine times more likely to suffer serious and life-threatening COVID-19 complications. These include a higher risk of ICU admission, ventilation and even death.
Researchers studied 568 participants, all of whom tested positive for COVID-19 and were presenting varying degrees of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. What they found was that COVID-19 patients with periodontal or gum disease were not only more likely to endure complications from the virus, but that they were also 4.5 times more likely to be placed on a ventilator and 3.5 times more likely to be admitted into the ICU than COVID-19 patients with good oral and dental health.
Additional studies performed in the UK and Mexico yielded similar results, finding that periodontal and gum disease are major risk factors for COVID-19. Some patients even developed certain oral symptoms such as “COVID tongue” which manifests itself with tiny bumps, inflammation and discolouration.
Oral health has long been connected to overall physical health and your body’s ability to fight off illnesses. These new studies simply solidify this fact and show that there’s a connection between the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and the presence of gum disease.
What Is Gum Disease?
Periodontitis, which is colloquially referred to as gum disease, is an oral infection that can quickly spread throughout your oral cavity and negatively impact other parts of your body if treatment isn’t administered. Gum disease can develop over time due to an inadequate or complete lack of an oral and dental hygiene routine. Gum disease occurs when the soft tissue of the gums become infected with harmful bacteria.
In the beginning stages, gum disease is called gingivitis, but can quickly escalate to more severe periodontitis. Bacteria continue to wreak havoc on your teeth and gum tissue, causing plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth and below the gum line. Eventually, the gums may become so inflamed that the teeth start to loosen up and some of them may even fall out.
What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?
Symptoms of gum disease vary in type and severity from one patient to another. Here are some of the most common gum disease symptoms that many adults with mild or severe gum disease may experience,
- Gum inflammation and irritation
- Gum redness
- Loose teeth
- Tooth loss
- Tooth sensitivity
- Shifting teeth or misalignment
- Persistent halitosis (bad breath)
- Negative impact on bite
- Bleeding, especially when flossing, brushing, or chewing crunchy foods
Although periodontal disease is fairly common in older adults, it can also impact children at an early age—especially if they’re not taught proper brushing and flossing techniques. Just like COVID-19, gum disease has already been linked to a series of other health conditions including diabetes, respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.
What’s the Connection between Gum Disease and COVID-19?
The connection between gum disease and COVID-19 is actually simple. Although different medical experts, doctors and specialists are trained to take care of different parts of your body and specialize in specific diseases, at the end of the day, every component of your body is connected.
Oral infections, in particular, have the capacity to quickly worsen and spread throughout your body if they’re not immediately treated. When you get sick, your immune system immediately springs into action to fight off foreign cells and viruses. Oftentimes, that’s what causes you to experience certain symptoms that are associated with specific illnesses.
When your immune system is fighting off multiple viruses and bacteria simultaneously, this can cause some of the symptoms you feel—particularly inflammation in this case—to be exacerbated. An overactive immune response to gum disease and COVID-19 can increase inflammation throughout the body to potentially lethal levels.
Additionally, the bacteria that already exist in your oral cavity are then transferred into your lungs through inhalation. On top of having COVID-19, these infectious bacteria can amplify existing symptoms and make it even harder for patients to breathe. That’s why COVID-19 patients with gum disease are significantly more likely to require a ventilator than those without a pre-existing condition.
How to Prevent Gum Disease Naturally
Prevention of gum disease is actually quite simple. In fact, your dentist has probably explained these preventative measures to you ad nauseam over the years. Now, more than ever, it’s important that you heed this advice on how to prevent gum infection.
Maintain a Strict At-Home Dental Care Routine
Your dental care routine should consist of using the proper techniques to brush and floss your teeth. Brush your teeth twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening to remove stains and kill bacteria. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to minimize tooth enamel damage.
Floss at least once in the evening before bed to remove excess food particles stuck between your teeth. As an added preventative measure, use mouthwash to eliminate germs and bacteria inside your mouth.
Schedule Regular Dental Checkups and Cleanings
Dental checkups give your dentist the opportunity to examine your oral and dental health to make sure that everything is normal. Professional teeth cleanings go deep into the gums and between the teeth to remove tartar and plaque buildup that’s hard to reach with a toothbrush or floss. It’s recommended that you visit the dentist once every four to six months or as often as your dentist recommends.
Change Your Daily Habits
Eat healthy crunchy foods that promote good dental health and remove food particles between your teeth while you chew. Use a toothpick or brush your teeth between meals if possible to remove stuck-on foods. At the very least, you should try to rinse your mouth out with water after eating to remove loose food particles between your teeth, so they don’t stay there all day.
Get Professional Gum Disease Treatment in Toronto
Princeview Dental Group is a trusted dental clinic in the GTA. We’re taking all COVID-19 health and safety precautions to ensure the well-being of our patients and staff. Contact us today to learn more or to book an appointment.