How Is Gum Disease Associated With COVID-19 Deaths?
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In the midst of the COVID pandemic, many of us are trying to do anything we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. While much of this care comes from our actions: social distancing, wearing masks, following proper hand-washing habits, and staying at home as much as possible, these actions are not always enough, especially if there are underlying concerns.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have all heard a lot about those at high-risk (those who are elderly or have underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes). And while all of these conditions are at the peak of seriousness, there is another factor that is commonly left off that list: those with gum disease.
We all know that there is a deep, underlying link between our dental health and our physical health (as gum disease can easily lead to heart disease), and, sadly, research has shown a staggering correlation between COVID-19 deaths and those with gum disease. Gum disease is the presence of bacteria in our oral cavity which releases harmful proteins, and statistics show that an overwhelming number of those who have passed away due to COVID have had high levels of that protein.
With this link being so prevalent, it is now more important than ever to be mindful of your dental and gum health. Practice good at-home oral hygiene, watch the foods you eat, and don’t push off your dental appointments. We are here to help you ensure that your mouth remains at its healthiest.
Study Links Gum Disease To COVID-19 Deaths, Aspirated Bacteria Serve As Reservoir For Coronavirus By Marcy Kreiter
- COVID patients with high levels of IL-6 (A protein that promotes inflammation) have a 22 times greater chance of being placed on a ventilator
- Bacteria from inflamed gums can be aspirated and adhere to the lung epithelium, promoting infection
A three-month study by a Los Angeles dental surgeon and South African healthcare researcher finds a strong link between COVID-19 deaths and gum disease. The study, released Tuesday, found patients with gum disease release high levels of a harmful protein that spreads to the lungs, triggering a life-threatening respiratory crisis.
The protein, IL-6, promotes inflammation. COVID patients with high levels of IL-6 have a 22 times greater chance of being placed on a ventilator and, consequently, an increased chance of death, the study found. The authors cite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics that indicate of all COVID patients on ventilators since the pandemic began, nearly 80% have died. A study published in May indicated the rate of recovery had increased to 64% as treatment methods improved.
The study by U.S. dental surgeon Dr. Shervin Molayem and South African scientist Carla Pontes suggests COVID patients with gum disease are more susceptible to a respiratory crisis known as a cytokine storm, essentially an overreaction of the body’s immune system.
“Gum disease has been linked to other breathing ailments, including pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, so we weren’t surprised to find a link to respiratory problems with COVID-19,” Molayem said in a press release. “What shocked us was the discovery of the protein’s devastating, life-threatening impact to patients once they’re hospitalized. One tiny, inflammatory protein robbed them of their ability to breathe!”
Bacteria from inflamed gums can be aspirated and adhere to the lung epithelium, promoting infection and subsequently showing up in lung fluids. The bacteria cause secondary infections that can serve as a reservoir for the coronavirus. Mechanical ventilation decreases clearance of oral secretions, increasing the bacterial load and probability of pneumonia development.
“As the death toll keeps climbing, the CDC now predicts the virus will be among the leading causes of death in the United States, just behind heart disease and cancer,” Molayem said. “Now … we’ve confirmed periodontitis makes it even deadlier.”
The researchers said they hope their findings compel nursing homes to improve dental screening protocols, since 80% of all COVID-19 deaths have been among the elderly, and urge hospitals and emergency room doctors to check new patients for gum disease.
It is easier to stay healthy than to become healthy. Now more than ever please stay current with your cleaning frequency. We will never let you down. Never! Keep taking your vitamins, supplements, getting good sleep and exercise. The best way to stay healthy is to live a healthy lifestyle. We are so excited to see you soon!