A shocking new study indicates people with gum disease are nine times more likely to die of Covid-19.
Researchers say coronavirus patients are three times more likely to end up in intensive care or on a ventilator if they already suffer from periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease.
Approximately 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.
Covid patients on ventilators could be particularly vulnerable as they are more likely to inhale oral bacteria, say scientists.
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.”
Coronavirus has killed more than 110,000 people in the UK and infected in excess of 3.8 million.
Electronic health records from 568 patients who were diagnosed with Covid-19 between February and July 2020 were reviewed by the researchers.
Of these, 40 suffered complications, meaning they ended up in intensive care, on a ventilator or dead.
Information on whether the patients suffered from gum disease was then collected and analysed.
Other factors including BMI (body mass index), asthma, heart disease, diabetes, blood pressure and smoking were also taken into account.
The chances of death for Covid patients with gum disease was 8.81 times higher than others, the researchers found.
Likewise, the chances of ending up in intensive care or on a ventilator were 3.54 and 4.57 times greater respectively.
Professor Shapira said: “If a causal link is established between periodontitis and increased rates of adverse outcomes in Covid-19 patients, then establishing and maintaining periodontal health may become an important part of the care of these patients.”
Overall, patients with gum disease were 3.67 times more likely to suffer from Covid complications, the researchers found.
Oral bacteria from the gums could be inhaled and infect the patient’s lungs, especially those on ventilators, the researchers say.
Co-author professor Mariano Sanz, of Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, said: “This may contribute to the deterioration of patients with Covid-19 and raise the risk of death.
“Hospital staff should identify Covid-19 patients with periodontitis and use oral antiseptics to reduce transmission of bacteria.”
Gums 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. Periodontitis is a common disease but can be prevented and treated.”
Gum disease can be prevented by maintaining good dental hygiene and following a healthy diet.
On top of brushing your teeth more than once a day, special mouthwashes or toothpaste can be used to reduce inflammation.
Exercise and not smoking are also important when it comes to keeping your mouth germ-free.
Professor Nicola West, of the University of Bristol, added: “This study highlights another association between gum disease and our systemic health and reiterates the need for ongoing, lifelong dental care for people susceptible to gum disease and a strong preventive approach to periodontitis for populations as a whole.”
The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.