The link between the mouth and the overall health of the body is not something to be overlooked. Strong connections have been uncovered between oral conditions and other ailments including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Respiratory problems can be affected by types of bacteria that are found in the mouth as well.
A study was performed in Germany that looked at patients hospitalized with COVID-19. They found that those with periodontal disease were at a substantially greater risk of fatal respiratory failure.
This life-threatening situation is likely caused by IL-6 (interleukin), a harmful protein produced by periodontitis. IL-6 spreads from the gum tissue down into the lungs, causing respiratory ailments.
According to Shervin Molayem, DDS, founder of the UCLA Dental Research Journal, “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 went on to say, “what shocked us was the discovery of the protein’s devastating, life-threatening impact on patients once they’re hospitalized. One tiny, inflammatory protein robbed them of their ability to breathe.”
The California Dental Association has released the article The Mouth-COVID Connection where you can learn more about these findings.
During COVID-19, having a healthy mouth is more important than ever. Make certain that you are still having your regular periodontal maintenance appointments and contact us if you have any concerns about the health of your gums.
UPDATE for April 2021:
More research has been done on this topic, including a study published in the European Federation of Periodontology’s Journal of Clinical Periodontology.
The team performing the study in Qatar looked at 568 patients who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 between February and July of 2020. Of the patients in the study, 40 had suffered complications, which consisted of being put in intensive care, placed on a ventilator, or dying. The study looked at a number of factors for their connection with COVID-19, including heart disease, asthma, diabetes, body mass index, blood pressure, smoking, and others.
The study found that COVID-19 patients who were suffering from periodontal disease were nearly nine (8.81) times more likely to die than those without.
COVID patients with gum disease were 4.5 times more likely to need a ventilator and were 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care.
Those with periodontal disease were more likely to develop COVID-19 complications (around 12.8%) than those without (about 2.3%).
One of the study’s co-authors, Professor Lior Shapira of the Hebrew University, said, “The results of the study suggest that the inflammation in the oral cavity may open the door to the coronavirus becoming more violent. Oral care should be part of the health recommendations to reduce the risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes.”