COVID-19 and Gums

Every day as we learn more and more about COVID-19, we learn about the potential detrimental effects of the virus. Recent studies have shown that gum disease may be one of the pre-existing conditions that are associated with more severe COVID-19 outcomes. To better understand the relationship between gum disease and COVID-19 outcomes, it is first important to understand the oral health condition and how it is linked to complications in the body. Below is more information on gum disease and its connection with health complications.

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is an oral health disease that affects more than 75% of adults in the United States. The condition attacks the gum tissue and the bones surrounding the teeth. In the early stages, gum disease will cause the gums to be swollen, irritated, and sore. As the condition progresses it can become more dangerous, causing more severe tooth decay and even tooth loss. The primary cause of gum disease is bacteria and plaque that builds up along the gumline. If not removed this plaque will attack gum and bone tissue. Daily brushing and flossing and maintaining regular dental visits are the best way to minimize the risk of gum disease.

Gum Disease and the Body

Gum disease has been linked with other adverse health conditions. In fact, evidence suggests that the association between gum disease and health may be bidirectional, meaning conditions can impact each other. For example, patients with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease and the inflammation caused by gum disease may make it harder to control diabetes. Gum disease has been linked to several other conditions, including:

  • Heart Disease and stoke
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Pre-term delivery of babies with low birth weight babies
  • Cancer

Gum Disease and COVID-19

Inflammation is the body’s response to a bacterial infection in the gums. Recently, researchers have hypothesized that pre-existing gum disease may play a part in worse COVID-19 outcomes. Infected pockets between the gums and the teeth are a common symptom of more advanced gum disease. These pockets may allow inflammation to enter the gum tissue and bloodstream, potentially causing damage elsewhere in the body. A recent report in the Journal of the California Dental Association found that hospitalized COVID-19 patients with prior underlying gum disease were at a higher risk for worse hospital outcomes, including respiratory failure. The study suggests that patients with more severe gum disease may have higher levels of inflammation in the body, and this inflammation may contribute to more dangerous and severe COVID-19 outcomes.

Fighting Gum Disease

Fortunately, gum disease is a preventable and reversible condition. If you have recently noticed your gums are swollen and bleed lightly when you brush, you may have gingivitis, or the early stage of gum disease. Gingivitis is reversible if caught early and treated appropriately. Depending on the severity of your gum disease, your dental provider will be able to help you find the right treatment to help return your gums to good health.

Swollen Gum around 1 Tooth