COVID19 and Gums

Recently, research studies have reported that gum disease may be linked with more severe COVID-19 outcomes. If you have gum disease you may be wondering what this means for you? To better understand how gum disease is associated with COVID-19, it is important to understand how gum disease is connected to other health complications. Below is more information on the connection between gum disease and health conditions in the body.


What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is an oral health disease that affects more than 75% of adults in the United States. Gum disease progressively attacks the gum tissue and bones surrounding the teeth. In the early stages, gum disease will only cause irritation and swelling in the gums. As gum disease advances it will continue to cause the gums to deteriorate, leading to severe tooth decay and even tooth loss. The primary cause of gum disease is bacteria and plaque from food that build up on the gumline overtime. If left untreated, this plaque will continue to destroy the gums. The best way to reduce the risk of gum disease is to maintain good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing daily, and regular dental visits.


Gum Disease and the Body

Scientific evidence suggests that gum disease may increase the risk of other serious health conditions. The possible association between gum disease and health may be bidirectional, meaning the relationship may go both ways. Gum disease is common in patients with diabetes and the inflammation caused by gum disease may make it harder to control diabetes. Gum disease has been linked to several serious conditions including:

* Cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and stoke)
* Pulmonary disease
* Pre-term delivery of babies with low birth weight
* Cancers (kidney and pancreatic)


Gum Disease and COVID-19

Inflammation is the body’s response to a bacterial infection in the gums. Recently, researchers have suggested that pre-existing gum disease may contribute to worse COVID-19 outcomes. When gum disease is advanced the infected pockets in the gums may allow inflammatory products to enter the gums and the bloodstream, potentially causing damage to the body. A recent study published in the Journal of the California Dental Association reported that among hospitalized COVID-19 patients, those who had prior underlying gum disease were at a higher risk for worse hospital outcomes, including respiratory failure. The study findings suggest that patients with more severe gum disease, may have higher levels of inflammation in the body, and this inflammation may contribute to more severe damage to the lung tissue.


Fighting Gum Disease

Fortunately, once identified, gum disease is a reversible condition. If you have noticed you have swollen and irritated gums that bleed lightly when you brush, you may have the early stage of gum disease. If caught early and treated, this initial stage, called gingivitis, can be reversed and the gum tissue can be repaired. Depending on the severity of your gum disease, your dental provider will help you find the right treatment plan to return your gums to good health.

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