New Study Links Periodontitis and COVID-19 Complications
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - Systemic inflammation is not only a symptom of COVID-19, but can also be a symptom of periodontal disease, or gum disease. Noticing this similarity, new research published ahead-of-print in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology found that gum disease is linked to severe COVID-19-related complications.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), the nation's leading organization of periodontists, or gum disease experts, these findings signal the importance of diligent oral care during COVID-19. "It is well-established that systemic inflammation is not only linked with periodontal disease, but to several other respiratory diseases as well," said Dr. James G. Wilson, President of the AAP. "Therefore, maintaining healthy teeth and gums in an effort to avoid developing or worsening periodontal disease is absolutely crucial in the midst of a global pandemic like COVID-19, which is also known to trigger an inflammatory response."
Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, can cause bleeding gums, bad breath, and if left untreated lead to tooth loss. Research from the AAP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests up to half of US adults age 30 and older have some form of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease has been linked to several other serious conditions in addition to COVID-19, including diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's.
Conducted using the national electronic health records of the State of Qatar between February and July 2020, the study analyzed patient cases with severe COVID-19 complications (death, ICU admissions or assisted ventilation). The control group was comprised of COVID‐19 patients discharged without major complications. Periodontal conditions in the two groups were analyzed using dental radiographs from the same database.
Of the 568 patients studied, those with periodontitis, the most severe form of gum disease, were at least three times more likely to experience COVID‐19 complications including death, ICU admission, and the need for assisted ventilation. Additionally, COVID-19 patients with periodontitis showed increased levels of biomarkers associated with worsened disease outcomes including white blood cell levels, D‐dimer, and c-reactive protein.