Covid-19 and Gums

In the short time since the world has been learning about Covid-19, researchers have found that the virus is associated with multiple conditions and long-term complications that affect infected people. Recently, a study suggested that gum disease is associated with the coronavirus Covid-19 and some similar diseases. To understand the ways these diseases are connected, it’s necessary to understand the basics of gum disease.

Gum disease is a very common dental condition that affects the gum tissue and the bones that support the teeth. It is most commonly caused by poor oral hygiene, which causes bacteria to build up on the surfaces of the teeth and below the gums. The body responds to this infection with inflammation, which appears as swelling and irritation in the gums. This inflammatory response releases proteins into the body, in an event that is known as a cytokine storm. A hyperactive inflammatory response and a proliferation of bacteria can lead to destruction of tissues in the rest of the body, not just the mouth. A recent study in the Journal of the California Dental Association suggests that patients with coronavirus who have existing gum disease may face a higher risk of failure of the respiratory system. The symptoms associated with chronic gum disease may increase the risk of having more severe complications from Covid-19. It is believed that the high levels of inflammatory materials circulating in the body pose a greater risk of damaging the lung tissue, which can result in respiratory failure.

Ongoing research suggests that gum disease is likely to be associated with multiple health complications -- not just Covid-19. Dentists and patients have known for years that diabetes is connected to gum disease, in a relationship that is known as bi-directional; this means that each disease feeds the other disease, in a cycle. Diabetes is also one of the underlying conditions that may increase the severity of Covid-19. Gum disease has also been linked with cardiovascular disease, lung disease, premature birth and low birth weight, some cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The best way to prevent gum disease is through effective oral hygiene, which includes brushing the teeth at least twice daily, preferably after every meal, and cleaning between the teeth with floss or an interdental cleaning tool daily. In addition to home hygiene, regular visits to the dentist for checkups and cleanings are an important part of preventing gum disease and other oral conditions, and, as studies are showing, effective oral hygiene can help keep you healthier overall. If you have gum disease, see your dentist. In its earlier stages, gum disease can be reversed with professional care and your own proper and thorough cleaning, a habit worth forming. Once it has progressed, the only way to heal the gums is with a surgical procedure. In its earlier stages, your dentist can deep clean your teeth and their roots, in a procedure called scaling and root planing. If you have advanced periodontal disease, your dentist will clean out bacteria and also remove infected tissue, preparing your mouth for a healthy future, free from inflammation, using either a scalpel or a laser.

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