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Is Gum Disease a Worsening Factor in Severe Covid?

Posted on 16th February 2021
covid and gum disease

A recent article published in the Journal of the California Dental Association links gum diseases such as periodontitis with severe cases of Covid-19. The article has drawn a lot of attention. We thought we’d share some of its fascinating theory with our patients.

One of big questions the world is asking scientists to answer about the global Covid pandemic is: ‘Why do some people suffer such severe effects when the great majority experience only mild symptoms?’ One area of interest that may provide a partial answer as we learn more about the disease is the function of a particular bodily reaction that occurs in some patients. This reaction is known as a cytokine storm.

A cytokine storm is a severe immune reaction. The body’s own defence system goes into overdrive - releasing too many of the family of proteins known as cytokines. In smaller bursts, these proteins play an important role in immune defence. When there are too many of them, they can aggravate the high fever, fatigue and respiratory problems associated with severe Covid cases.

A powerful predictor of respiratory failure needing mechanical ventilation in Covid patients is a high presence of a cytokine protein known as interleukin-6 (IL-6).

So where does gum disease fit in? 

The journal article cites evidence that shows how “...periodontitis has been linked to  increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines, including IL-6, which is a recognized mediator  in the periodontal destruction process.” It then goes on to describe how heightened levels of IL-6 can contribute to more severe complications in Covid patients. 

(Interestingly, one of the effects of the steroid dexamethasone - which has been shown to reduce mortality in severe Covid-19 cases  by a third - is a reduction in  the levels of IL-6.)

The article concludes that maintaining healthier teeth and gums could reduce the risks of suffering severe effects if you were to catch Covid:  “...the  potential of oral hygiene and periodontal interventions to decrease the burden of oral bacteria and inflammation, improve general health and protect against severe complications from coronavirus disease should not be underestimated.”

And that has got to be information worth sharing!

Read the original article here.


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