COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our healthcare system, requiring both providers and patience to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances. As we move into the second year of the pandemic, we are learning more every day about the virus, its side effect and aftereffects, and how to treat it. Recently it has come to light that there is a link between COVID-19 and gum disease. As the COVID vaccine rollout isn’t finished yet, it is important for all of us to understand the link between COVID-19 and gum disease, and what it means for patients, healthcare providers, and treatment.
Gum Disease, Inflammation, and COVID-19
As with so many things around COVID-19, we are still learning about the link between COVID-19 and gum disease. However, research has established a link between the two, and in part explored the impact gum disease can have on COVID patients.
Gum disease shares complex links and interactions with many other health problems, including heart disease, digestive issues, pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular problems. This has to do with the way gum disease causes and exacerbates inflammation in tissues throughout the body as the bacteria which cause gum disease spread through the bloodstream.
For COVID patients, the prognosis is particularly grim. Patients with gum disease were more likely to experience adverse outcomes when they contracted COVID. In particular, they are 4.5 times more likely to need a ventilator, and 3.5 times more likely to be placed in the ICU. To be blunt, they are also far more likely to die than COVID patients under similar circumstances.
So how can we avoid this? There are two things to consider: the long-term issue of gum disease and the short-term concerns around avoiding COVID.
Preventing Gum Disease
Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, is a common health issue in the US and around the world. Many adults have it and do not even know it. Some common symptoms of gum disease include:
- Swollen or puffy gums; or bright red, dusky red, or purplish gums
- Gums that feel tender when touched or bleed easily when touched
- Pink-tinged toothbrush after brushing
- Spitting out blood when brushing or flossing your teeth
- Bad breath
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Loose teeth or loss of teeth
- Pain while eating, chewing, or talking
- New spaces developing between your teeth
- Gums that pull away or recede from your teeth, making your teeth look longer than normal
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms persistently, contact your dentist and make an appointment for an exam. The best solution to gum disease is to avoid it via regular brushing and flossing and trips to the dentist for teeth cleaning. Your dentist will perform an exam, determine the best course of action, and prescribe treatment.
The best way to avoid COVID-19 is to follow the basic guidelines set out by the CDC and other health authorities. Wash your hands regularly, wear a mask, avoid gatherings, and maintain social distancing. It’s inconvenient and disruptive, but it’s the best way to get the virus under control.
Your oral health shapes your overall health, and that’s true with COVID as well. Taking care of your teeth and gums, avoiding gum disease, and following the COVID guidelines is the best way for all of us to stay healthy right now.