Periodontitis and COVID-19. What relationship is there?

Did you know that recent studies have determined that periodontitis patients are almost 9 times more likely to die if they contract COVID-19? We shared this information on our social media platforms referring to an article published by SEPA, the Spanish Society of Periodontology, which reported the results of research focusing on finding evidence of the potential relationship between both conditions and their influence on coronavirus patients who also suffer from the most severe form of gum disease.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, efforts have been made to study both the origin and the effects and symptoms of the coronavirus in infected patients. Concurrently, many researchers and medical professionals from various specialties have also focused on searching for connections with other health conditions and diseases. The objective has always been to find not only common symptom patterns but also possible solutions or treatments to alleviate the effects of coronavirus on these infected patients.

In this regard, the study that many specialized and non-specialized media outlets have already covered, and which we will discuss below, highlights the relationship between periodontitis and COVID-19. Do you want to know how gum disease affects coronavirus patients? We’ll explain it in detail.

The study linking periodontitis and COVID-19

One of the most prestigious journals within the dental scientific community has reported on the study linking periodontitis and COVID-19. The foremost dental magazine, “Journal of Clinical Periodontology”, published this study in early February 2021.

The research linking periodontitis and COVID-19 is the result of collaboration between the Complutense University of Madrid, McGill University in Montreal, the University of Qatar, and experts from the Oral Health Institute at the Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha. It was conducted based on data collected from electronic medical records in Qatar, involving the evaluation of 568 patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The results of this study show that people with gum disease are at higher risk of experiencing complications from COVID-19, including admission to the ICU, where the likelihood is 3.54 times higher, the need for assisted ventilation, with a risk 4.57 times higher, and even a risk 8.8 times higher of death. Periodontitis is therefore highly associated with the severity of COVID-19 and its potential complications, emphasizing the importance of informing the population about this connection between both conditions.

Key points of the connection between periodontitis and COVID-19

The study reported by the “Journal of Clinical Periodontology” and endorsed by SEPA reveals that in the analyses conducted on COVID-19 patients, levels of white blood cells, D-dimer, and C-reactive protein in the blood were higher in those who also had periodontitis, compared to those who did not.
These significantly higher marker levels are associated with worse outcomes of COVID-19, leading to an aberrant immune and inflammatory response, called “cytokine storm”, which accelerates the deterioration of these coronavirus-infected patients. Thus, periodontitis can substantially worsen and hasten the course of COVID-19 disease.

Moreover, periodontitis has been linked to other respiratory conditions such as pneumonia in hospitalized individuals or those on assisted ventilation, mainly due to the aspiration of bacterial pathogens present in the mouth (especially in periodontal pockets) that can lodge in the lungs and worsen the health status of these patients.

Therefore, maintaining oral hygiene control for hospitalized individuals with respiratory conditions, such as those suffering from coronavirus, must be even more thorough, reinforcing the administration of oral antiseptics to reduce the proliferation of oropharyngeal pathogens susceptible to worsening lung health.

Improving gum health is more vital than ever

Patients with periodontitis, a condition known as “silent disease” because its symptoms can go unnoticed, must take special care regarding the risk of coronavirus infection to avoid complications arising from the relationship between both conditions.
Precisely because it is possible to be unaware of having gum disease (due to neglect or poor oral habits), our role as dental and/or periodontal professionals now more than ever lies in providing the population with all the tools to prevent and combat it. As we have explained on previous occasions, periodontitis is an inflammatory disease that not only affects the oral cavity but is also linked to many systemic diseases, potentially having consequences for our overall health.

Likewise, following the evidence provided by the recent study mentioned above, the connection between periodontitis and COVID-19 should alert us to the serious consequences that neglecting gum health can bring in the event of coronavirus infection. Therefore, consultations and regular check-ups are even more important given the current global pandemic situation. Despite the efforts of the international scientific community, as of the time of writing this article, there is still no definitive cure for patients affected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the population that has received the vaccine is still relatively small, so every precaution is insufficient.

Do you have doubts about how to approach the care of your mouth? Do you think you need to review your oral health with special attention to your gums? Do not hesitate to contact us to resolve any questions or schedule an appointment through which Dr. Liñares as a periodontitis specialist, as well as the rest of his team, will put all their experience and the most advanced equipment at your service and that of your health.

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