Gum Disease & COVID-19: What’s the connection?
From late 2019 to the present, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has had a powerful impact on human life.
Aside from causing 4,961,489 deaths at the time of writing this article ( WHO Coronavirus Dashboard), COVID-19 has influenced many facets of our lives. These aspects include travel, economic activities, government policies and our health.
What, then, does this world pandemic have in common with gum disease? This article will explore this question and outline the latest research connecting these two diseases.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19, according to the Africa Congress for Disease Control and Prevention, is defined as :
“…a communicable respiratory disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus that causes illness in humans.”
This respiratory disease is spread from person to person via infected air droplets. These droplets are transferred when an infected person sneezes or coughs. In addition, people can also get infected by COVID-19 when they touch their eyes, nose or mouth with contaminated hands or contact contaminated surfaces.
According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 causes people infected by it to experience mild-moderate respiratory illness. However, severe cases can lead to death, with a higher risk recorded in older people and individuals with underlying medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, cancer or diabetes.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease (periodontitis) develops when bacteria grow in a person’s mouth leading to the progressive destruction of the tissue that holds the tooth in place. Characterised mainly by gum inflammation, bone destruction and recession, untreated gum disease can lead to tooth loss.
According to a Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study, gum disease is considered the sixth most prevalent condition affecting humankind. 50% of adults are affected by mild-moderate periodontitis.
Unlike COVID-19, gum disease is not transferred from person to person. Therefore, it is categorised as a chronic inflammatory non-communicable disease.
What is the relationship between Gum Disease and COVID-19?
According to a 2021 paper titled Association between periodontitis and severity of COVID-19: A case-control study by Nadya Marouf and nine other researchers, the correlation between gum disease and COVID-19 is an emergent controversial subject.
Recent research has established a connection between COVID-19’s severity and non-resolving hyperinflammation. Periodontitis is also characterised by non-resolving inflammation. The inflammation is the body’s response to the harmful bacteria in the gums. Initially the inflammation affects the gums, but studies show that it can spread to the rest of the body.
This study found that individuals with advanced gum disease are more likely to suffer from COVID-19 complications, with a higher chance of requiring a ventilator and succumbing to the coronavirus.
In addition, nearly 80% of the study’s patients who had COVID-19 complications had periodontitis. This result led the researchers to conclude that gum disease can increase the risk for severe COVID-19 complications.
Whether you have had a COVID-19 infection or not, keeping your gums healthy is crucial to your overall well being. If you address gum disease early, you can avoid the risk of losing your teeth or, in the extreme case of COVID-19, your life.
Dr Howard Gluckman is a renowned expert at treating various gum-related issues, including gum recession and tooth loss caused by severe periodontitis. Furthermore, our practice is also equipped with the latest dental technology to treat gum disease without causing you any pain or discomfort.
Book your appointment with Dr Gluckman today.
Academic Sources Cited
- Marouf N, Cai W, Said KN, et al. Association between periodontitis and severity of COVID-19 infection: A case-control study. J Clin Periodontol. 2021;48(4):483-491. doi:10.1111/jcpe.13435
- Shamsoddin E. Is periodontitis associated with the severity of COVID-19? Evid Based Dent. 2021 Jan;22(2):66-68. doi: 10.1038/s41432-021-0179-x. PMID: 34172910; PMCID: PMC8226334.
- Gum disease linked to COVID-19 complications. Bdj Team. 2021;8(4):5. doi:10.1038/s41407-021-0604-1