We are all living with a heightened sense of precaution these days as Covid-19 continues to impact the far corners of our globe. In recent weeks, more details have come to light regarding those with the highest risk for contraction and overall complications. Pre-existing health conditions and age still reflect the most prominent warning signs for those seeking to protect themselves, however, they are now joined by new risk profiles that are not as readily identifiable.
What has recently been discovered, and what has also largely eluded the mainstream spotlight, is the inclusion of gum disease among these dangerous conditions. Indeed, it has been shown that an individual with gum disease is much more likely to experience an extreme reaction to Covid-19. Considering the slough of health issues that could result from gum disease, even without the pervasiveness of Covid-19, the importance of maintaining oral health has never been greater. How is gum disease linked to Covid-19 complications, and what are the statistics? Keep reading to delve deeper into what we are learning.
Inflammation: Covid-19 and Gum Disease
Gum disease, medically known as periodontitis, results in the inflammation of the gums. This inflammation, if periodontitis is left untreated, can spread throughout the body and create additional complications.
In a similar way, Covid-19 is known to create an inflammatory response in many patients. Inflammatory markers in patients’ blood were much higher if the patient suffered from gum disease. This implies that the already-inflamed gums offered an avenue for Covid-19 to become more violent in patients.
A study was conducted in Qatar involving 568 Covid-19 patients from February to July 2020, was published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology. Due to the nature of both gum disease and the coronavirus causing inflammation, researchers investigated the link between the two. The experiment controlled for various characteristics in order to isolate gum disease as the main variable – BMI, smoking status, age, gender, and other potentially influential variables were isolated.
The study concluded that individuals with gum disease were considerably more likely, as a result of contracting Covid-19, to require ICU treatment (3.5x more likely), use of a ventilator (4.5x more likely), and death (9x more likely).
These results show that while respiratory conditions such as COPD, asthma, and emphysema can increase the risk of a severe reaction to the coronavirus, the list of potentially complicating underlying conditions does not end with ones that directly affect the lungs. The researchers maintain that maintenance of proper oral health could be a crucial part of caring for Covid-19 patients.
What You Can Do
It is clear now more than ever that oral health is part and parcel of an overall healthy lifestyle. To maintain healthy gums and reduce your risk of gum disease, practice the following:
- Brush twice per day with an effective, high-quality toothbrush
- Use an intentional brushing motion at a 45-degree angle to your gum line
- Floss at least once a day and use a fluoride rinse
- Maintain a healthy diet low in added sugars
- Exercise and be cognizant of your mental and emotional health
While the research has unearthed that gum disease is a serious cause for concern amid the pandemic, there are thankfully many ways you can mitigate your risk and boost your health.
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