Gum disease is associated with an increased risk of COVID-related ICU admission and death, says a study by McGill University researchers.
Patients with infected or inflamed gums were 3.5 times more likely to experience COVID symptoms requiring critical care, 4.5 times more likely to be ventilated, and 8.8 times more likely to die than those with healthy gums. This is the first study of its kind to explore the relationship between gum disease and COVID outcomes.
Belinda Nicolau, one of the study’s authors, said there is a very strong correlation between periodontitis (gum disease) and COVID outcomes. “Looking at the conclusions of our study, we can highlight the importance of good oral health in the prevention and management of COVID-19 complications,” explained Nicolau.
Periodontitis is an inflammatory disease that compromises the soft and hard structures that support teeth, representing the leading cause of tooth loss. Poor oral hygiene, diabetes, smoking, and a weakened immune system can contribute to the disease. Gum disease is incredibly prevalent, with nearly half of all adults aged 30 years or older showing symptoms of the condition.
According to the researchers, the inflammation triggered by gum disease can spread throughout the body. In patients with severe COVID-19, this can exacerbate the inflammatory response caused by infection by the coronavirus. The team found that circulating inflammatory biomarkers were significantly higher in the blood of COVID-19 patients with gum disease, which could explain the increased likelihood of complications.
Over 560 patients were included in this study, taking into account demographic, medical, and behavioral factors to avoid biases. As a follow-up, the team plans to expand the study by collecting data from larger patient cohorts.