“Keep flossing: A new study finds that gum disease may raise the chances of hospitalization or death if COVID-19 strikes.” WebMD (Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, usually follows gum inflammation.)
Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, we’ve been playing catch up. Scientists and researchers are trying to piece together important parts of this novel disease. Over a year later, we’ve gained much knowledge but there’s still much to learn. After all, the modern world has not faced a threat such as this.
Because our tribe is our primary concern (that’s you), we read widely so we can keep you informed. So, when we read a study that linked gum disease (periodontitis) and COVID-19, we felt it was important to share its findings.
The study titled, Association between periodontitis and severity of COVID‐19 infection: A case–control study, was published on February 1 this year in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.
Researchers investigated 568 patients who had suffered from COVID‐19. They were divided into two groups to work out if disease severity was linked to gum disease. The first group included people who were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), placed on assisted ventilation, or who died. The second group included those who were infected with COVID‐19 but did not experience major complications.
The study found that gum disease was associated with COVID‐19 complications.1https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcpe.13435 Periodontitis increased the risk of ICU admission, the need for assisted ventilation and, sadly, death; i.e., those with poor oral health are at greater risk of COVID-19 severity.
How could COVID-19 severity be linked to gum disease or inflammation?
One argument is that oral health is a reflection of your overall health and resilience to disease. Would a wise farmer buy a horse whose teeth are bad or gums infected? Another theory relates to the oral mucosa, which is akin to the “skin” inside the mouth. It covers the tongue, inner cheeks, inside of the lips and the area around the base of the teeth.
A study published in the International Journal of Oral Science found that this mucosa plays a key role in how the virus gains entry to our cells and causes infection.
These two studies suggest that poor oral health may allow the virus to more easily enter the body, and possibly in greater numbers. This is important. Other researchers have said, “We think that the dose-response… plays an important role in the severity of the COVID-19 epidemic.”2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7686757/
What is dose-response?
Imagine a hose. When slightly turned on, only a small amount of water can come through the end. When the hose has holes or leaks (or is turned on full blast), the spray is large, powerful and expansive. In the case of COVID-19, think of inflamed/diseased gums as a hose that is leaking everywhere (or turned on full blast). The virus in the water now has a large and powerful entrance to your body.
In essence: higher doses equal worse outcomes.
How can we reduce the risk?
This research provides a spotlight on “the importance of good oral care during the COVID-19 pandemic”, which helps reduce the risk or severity.
Regular brushing, daily flossing, frequent tongue scraping, and oil pulling3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5198813/ each reduce our bacterial load and help improve our oral health. Mucosa included.
As always, when we hear of research that may help you to safely navigate through the global pandemic, we will let you know.