OTTAWA – Recently, a McGill University international study demonstrated that individuals with poor oral hygiene were more likely to have severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Published in February in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, the study followed 568 Qatari COVID-19 patients through the use of their digital medical and dental records. The researchers found that individuals with severe gum disease had higher rates of COVID-19 complications.
Some specific findings include those that demonstrated that COVID-19 patients with gum disease had a 3.5 times more likely chance to need admittance to an intensive care unit. They were also more likely to need a ventilator, at a 4.5 times higher rate than others. Additionally, those with gum disease had an 8.8 times higher likelihood of dying from COVID-19.
Thirty-three out of the 258 gum disease patients underwent complications while infected. Of the 310 patients with healthy gums, only seven had complications from COVID-19.
The authors of the study highlighted the fact that their conclusions demonstrated how critical that proper dental health is in managing the complications of COVID-19. Some of the researchers were surprised at how strong the correlation was between severe gum disease and COVID-19 outcomes.
Dentists have known for years that gum disease develops due to the presence of something called plaque that forms around the teeth. Plaque is a biofilm containing oral bacteria that can damage the teeth and gums when not removed through proper oral hygiene, such as regular brushing and flossing of the teeth. Left untreated, periodontal disease can cause chronic infection and loss of teeth.
Gum disease is surprisingly common among Canadians. In fact, the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) says that seven out of 10 Canadian citizens will develop periodontal disease, normally as adults.
The McGill University study also noted that gum disease patients had high levels of D-dimer and C-reactive protein in their bloodstreams. Each of these is considered to be a strong indication of increased inflammation within the body.
Higher than normal levels of these prominent biomarkers led the researchers to believe that this may offer an explanation of why these patients are having more severe COVID-19 reactions.
The gums become extremely inflamed when affected by periodontitis. If the condition worsens, this inflammation can become systemic, spreading throughout the body. It is already known that COVID-19 itself leads to an often extreme inflammatory response by the body that can cause the patient to be intubated or even die. So the researchers believe that periodontitis is intensifying this inflammatory process, leading to their poorer outcomes.
DISCLAIMER: The advice offered is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. It is in no way offering a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendations for your particular situation. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified dentist.