ORIGINAL ARTICLE: January 10, 2021

Can gum disease kill you? In combination with COVID-19, you have a higher risk of death if you find yourself hospitalized with COVID-19.

The connection between the mouth and the health of the rest of the body is not something to be overlooked. Many strong links have been found between oral health and diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Respiratory conditions can be impacted by the bacteria found in the mouth as well.

A three-month study performed in Germany looked at patients hospitalized with COVID-19. They found that those with gum disease (periodontitis) had a significantly higher chance of dying from respiratory failure than those with healthy mouths.

This life-threatening condition is likely caused by interleukin (IL-6) with is a harmful protein produced by gum disease. IL-6 spreads from the gums to the lungs causing major respiratory issues.

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.”

He continued 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.”

You can read more about these findings in The Mouth-COVID Connection from the California Dental Association.

Now, more than ever, having a healthy mouth is critical. Make sure you have your regular checkup scheduled and call your dentist if you notice any of the signs of gum disease.

UPDATED: April 21, 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.”

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