By now, you must be tired of hearing the same old COVID-19 narratives and its long term effects on our health. As of now, we know that only a small percentage of COVID-19 cases turn critical, and the presence of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma, and more1 has been linked to severe coronavirus-induced conditions like pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), multiple organ dysfunction, and even death.
Interestingly, did you know that the factors associated with gum disease are likewise related to the progression of severe coronavirus disease?
The belief is that since inflammatory and dysbiotic factors, as well as comorbidities, affect our bodies’ systemic health, bad periodontal health can indicate impending COVID-19 complications.
What does this mean for those with gum disease and test positive for COVID-19? Allow me to explain further.
Gum disease or periodontitis (PD) is a severe gum infection that can lead to tooth loss and other serious health complications. Periodontitis, which falls under the umbrella of gum disease, is a serious gum infection that when left untreated, damages both the soft tissue and bone that supports your teeth.
Periodontal diseases refer to a group of chronic inflammatory diseases, including gingivitis and periodontitis. The condition is associated with the following risk factors such as:
PD and severe COVID-19 illness seem to share similar risk factors! Most comorbidities (the presence of multiple conditions in your body) and risk factors reported in cases of severe COVID-19 seem to also aggravate the development of PD.
What are these common risk factors?
Ageing is a degenerative process that can lead to various autoimmune, infectious, or inflammatory conditions, including gum disease. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), PD mainly affects adults above the age of 65, as this demographic commonly presents with these additional risk factors:
Clearly, ageing is a risk factor in linking PD and severe COVID-19 complications.
Interestingly, various studies have suggested that men are more prone to severe forms of PD than women, due to differences in immune response and function, behaviour, environmental factors, and more.
Unsurprisingly, obesity is one of the highest risk factors when it comes to developing PD. The main consequence of obesity is systemic inflammation as:
Additionally, increased inflammatory factors reported in obesity also contribute to amplifying the risk of developing severe COVID-19. It is, therefore, possible that those with the conditions of obesity and PD are at an increased risk of developing severe COVID-19 complications.
Smoking is a major risk factor when it comes to developing PD, and affects the progression, severity and response to treatment of this condition.
Smoking also causes an individual to be 1.4 times more susceptible to severe COVID-19 symptoms. What this means is like obesity, it is also possible that those who smoke and have PD are at an increased risk of COVID-19 complications.
There are also less inconclusive studies that suggest the following –which are strongly associated with PD– might be contributing factors to the prevalence of COVID-19:
Studies over the last few years suggest the vulnerability of pregnant women to PD due to an affected inflammatory response. Furthermore, it has been established that increased progesterone levels in pregnant women trigger the gingival response causing dysbiosis.
There is initial evidence that suggests that PD is a risk factor for COVID-19, especially since PD is widely associated with several conditions such as diabetes, old age, and asthma, and is indicative of our overall systemic health.
Periodontitis is also associated with a higher risk of ICU admission, need for assisted ventilation, and even death in COVID-19 patients3.
PD also contributes to a large inflammatory load on the body and removing this inflammatory burden from your system is always a good idea! Thus, I would say that treating gum disease is imperative; Covid-19 or not! However, considering the initial studies between COVID-19 and periodontal disease, it is now more important than ever to schedule an appointment with a periodontist, especially if you experience symptoms such as: