Coronavirus patients with gum disease are nine times more likely to die from the killer bug, a new study has warned.
Researchers also found that patients with gum disease were 4.5 times more likely to require a ventilator.
The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology revealed that patients with the oral condition were 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care.
Dentists across the country had to close as part of the very first lockdown restrictions early in 2020, except for emergencies.
This led to people undertaking DIY procedures at home amid a backlog of patients.
In the third national lockdown, dentists have remained open and can see patients as long as strict measures are adhered to.
Experts say having regular checkups and keeping on top of your oral hygiene can help prevent severe gum disease.
Speaking to The Sun, Eddie Crouch, Chairman of the British Dental Association, said more than 20 million people have missed dental appointments because of the pandemic – and therefore dentists have been unable to spot developing issues.
He said: “The issue with gum disease is that a lot of people have it but it’s all down to how the body reacts.
“For some people the body reacts in an exaggerated way and people can lose bone quite rapidly.
“It may be the case that those who are prone to aggressive gum disease are also prone to an aggressive response from Covid-19.”
What is Periodontitis?
Periodontitis is also known as severe gum disease.
It is a serious gum infection that damaged the soft tissue in the gums.
If you don’t get treatment for it – it can destroy the bones that support your teeth.
Periodontitis can lead to tooth loss and can also make the teeth loose.
It is a common condition but can be prevented with good oral hygiene.
Experts say you should brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss.
As well as this you should get regular dental check-ups – this will make it easier for professionals to spot if you are suffering from the condition.
What are the signs?
The key symptoms of someone suffering with Periodontitis include:
- Bad breath
- Swollen or puffy gums
- Tender gums
- Pink-tinged toothbrush after brushing
- Painful chewing
- Loss of teeth
- New spaces developing in between your teeth
- Receding gums
- Puss between your teeth and gums
Experts at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain analysed more than 500 patients with Covid-19.
Patients with severe gum disease (periodontitis) were classed as patients where bone loss was found on two or more teeth and those who had cracked or fractured roots.
The experts found that blood markers suggested that inflammation in the body was higher in those who had Covid.
This, they said, indicates that inflammation may explain why some patients suffer more complications than others.
Professor Lior Shapira, president-elect of the European Federation of Periodontology said the results of the study “suggest that the inflammation in the oral cavity may open the door to the coronavirus becoming more violent”.
He added: “Oral care should be part of the health recommendations to reduce the risk for severe Covid outcomes.”
Prof Shapira also highlighted that the association between patients with severe gum disease and lung disease is well established.
This could include patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia – many of which had had to shield during the coronavirus lockdowns in order to protect themselves from catching the virus and sufferings from severe complications.
Prof Shapira added: “This study adds further evidence to the links between oral health and respiratory conditions.
“Periodontitis is a common disease but can be prevented and treated.”
The authors stated that good oral health could become a crucial part of the care of such coronavirus patients.
One of the study’s authors Professor Mariano Sanz of the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, explained that oral bacteria for patients who have severe gum infections can be inhaled.
As a result, he said, it can infect the lungs which then leads to some patients having to use a ventilator.
He said: “This may contribute to the deterioration of patients with Covid-19 and raise the risk of death.
“Hospital staff should identify Covid-19 patients with periodontitis and use oral antiseptics to reduce transmission of bacteria.”
Dr Crouch added: “The types of bacteria that cause gum disease feed on plaque and food debris, which in turn will make those areas of the gums inflammed.
“Most people will know it as sore and bleeding and will try and avoid those areas. But the right treatment is to continue to clean those areas.”