The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease continues to have a profound effect on the healthcare industry across the world, owing to the scarcity of scientific and clinical knowledge. In the U.S., experts say it is now the third leading cause of death in the country, behind just heart disease and cancer. While most patients experience only mild symptoms followed by recovery within weeks to months, others exhibit respiratory complications with a high rate of mortalities.
Risk factors for developing life-threatening complications from COVID-19 include comorbidities, such as Diabetes Mellitus, hypertension, kidney, lung, and liver diseases, and cancer. However, epidemiological research has identified a connection between chronic gum disease and COVID-19 complications due to the presence of a protein, IL-6, which promotes inflammation.
What is Gum Disease? Causes and Symptoms
Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is an inflammatory disease of the gums caused by infection. Dr. Bret Dyer offers affordable gum disease treatment in Sugar Land, TX. Contact us today for a free consultation!
There are several risk factors for developing periodontitis. However, the most common gum disease cause is poor dental hygiene. Inadequate or improper brushing and flossing cause plaque buildup in the oral cavity. Plaque, in turn, may solidify to form tartar, which brushing cannot remove. Other risk factors include smoking, hormonal changes due to pregnancy or menopause, nutritional deficiencies, obesity, and genetics. Gum disease symptoms include persistent bad breath (halitosis), red or swollen gums, tender or bleeding gums, gum recession, painful chewing, and tooth sensitivity.
Gum Disease Complications and COVID-19
The three-month study by a Los Angeles dental surgeon, Dr. Shervin Molayem, and a South African healthcare researcher, Carla Pontes, discovered a strong link between COVID-19 deaths and gum disease. It found that patients with periodontitis release high levels of a harmful protein known as Interleukin (aka IL-6), which spreads to the lungs, triggering a life-threatening respiratory crisis. The crisis, known as a “cytokine storm,” is an immune over-response where the body releases an excessive amount of cytokines into the blood too rapidly.
Studies show that COVID patients with high levels of IL-6 have a 22 times greater chance of being placed on a ventilator. Fortunately, early diagnosis and treatment of gum disease in non-infected patients can contribute to lower rates of mortality if they ultimately become exposed to the virus.
Getting Help: Diagnosis and Treatment of Gum Disease
If you think you may have gum disease, you should schedule a visit to the dentist at your earliest convenience. To diagnose gum disease in patients, dentists or periodontists will examine the gums to check for signs of inflammation. Using a small probe, they will check for small pockets or gaps a few millimeters in the gums around the teeth, then ask questions about your oral health, or review your medical history. If there is evidence of bone loss or degradation, the professional might perform an X-ray.
Periodontists are skilled and qualified in treating gum disease. Viable treatment options include the following:
- Infection control using antibiotics.
- Non-surgical treatments, such as professional dental cleaning, scaling, and root planing.
- Surgical treatments, such as flap/pocket reduction surgery, soft tissue grafts, and bone grafts.
Lifestyle modifications on the part of patients are also essential to prevent a relapse. Examples include:
- Brushing your teeth twice daily with a fluoride-based toothpaste
- Flossing after each meal to prevent plaque and tartar formation
- Quitting smoking
- Routine visits to the dentist for dental check-ups
Looking for a Periodontist in Sugar Land, TX? Contact Dr. Dyer!
Dr. Bret Dyer and his team at Fort Bend Periodontics and Implantology offer a broad range of treatments for gum disease at affordable costs. We offer free virtual and in-person consultations to assess your dental health and ascertain specific treatments to meet your needs.
For more information about our services or to book a free consultation with Dr. Dyer, please contact us online or call us at (281) 980-2344.