COVID-19 patients with gum disease are 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care, 4.5 times more likely to need a ventilator, and nine times more likely to die, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.
“The results of the study suggest that the inflammation in the oral cavity may open the door to the coronavirus becoming more violent,” Professor Lior Shapira of the Hebrew University in Israel said. “Oral care should be part of the health recommendations to reduce the risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes.”
Half of all adults worldwide suffer from periodontitis, a serious gum disease that causes inflammation of the gums; if left untreated, it can spread throughout the body.
The study evaluated 568 COVID-19 patients in Qatar between February and July of 2020. Forty of the patients had complications. Body mass index, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, smoking, and blood pressure were also considered for the research.
“If a causal link is established between periodontitis and increased rates of adverse outcomes in COVID-19 patients, then establishing and maintaining periodontal health may become an important part of the care of these patients,” the authors of the study wrote.
One of the authors, Professor Mariano Sanz of the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, said that oral bacteria in patients with periodontitis could be inhaled and infect the lungs.
“This may contribute to the deterioration of patients with COVID-19 and raise the risk of death. Hospitals should identify COVID-19 patients with periodontitis and use oral antiseptics to reduce transmission of bacteria,” Sanz said.
According to the New York Post, the link between periodontitis and lung diseases including asthma, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was established.
“The study adds further evidence to the links between oral health and respiratory conditions. Periodontitis is a common disease but can be prevented and treated,” Shapira said.
“This study highlights another association between gum disease and our systemic health and reiterates the need for ongoing, lifelong dental care for people susceptible to gum disease and a strong preventive approach to periodontitis for populations as a whole,” Professor Nicola West, EFP secretary-general.