Covid warning: patients with gum disease 'almost 9 times more likely to die'

February 18, 2021

Coronavirus patients with severe gum disease are almost nine times more likely to die, warns a new study highlighted by Drayton hygienist and therapist, Bala Choudhary from Drayton Dental Care near Norwich.

The study also found that Covid-19 patients with periodontitis were 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care and 4.5 times more likely to need a ventilator compared to those without gum disease.

The electronic records of 568 patients diagnosed with Covid-19 between February and July 2020 were analysed. Of these, 40 had complications (ICU admission, ventilator requirement, or death). The paper was published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.

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“Hospital staff should identify Covid-19 patients with periodontitis”

Information was collected on gum disease and other factors that might be associated with the Covid-19 complications, including body mass index (BMI), smoking, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Mariano Sanz of the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, one of the study’s authors, noted that oral bacteria in patients with periodontitis can be inhaled and infect the lungs, particularly in those using a ventilator.

“This may contribute to the deterioration of patients with Covid-19 and raise the risk of death,” he said. “Hospital staff should identify Covid-19 patients with periodontitis and use oral antiseptics to reduce transmission of bacteria.”

Study co-author Professor Lior Shapira, of the Hebrew University, Israel, said: "The results of the study suggest that the inflammation in the oral cavity may open the door to the coronavirus becoming more violent.

"Oral care should be part of the health recommendations to reduce the risk for severe Covid-19 outcomes."

Around half the world's population over 30 suffer from periodontitis, which causes swelling in and around the gums. If not treated properly, the inflammation can spread throughout the body and infect the lungs.

Gum disease has been associated with other lung conditions including asthma, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Professor Shapira said: "This study adds further evidence to the links between oral health and respiratory conditions."

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