In a new study, researchers found COVID-19 patients are at least three times more likely to experience complications if they also have gum disease.
They found that those with gum disease were 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care, 4.5 times more likely to need a ventilator, and almost nine times more likely to die compared to those without gum disease.
Blood markers indicating inflammation in the body were much higher in COVID-19 patients who had gum disease compared to those who did not, suggesting that inflammation may explain the raised complication rates.
The results suggest that the inflammation in the oral cavity may open the door to the coronavirus becoming more violent.
The research was conducted by a team at Qatar University and elsewhere.
Periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease, affects up to half of all adults worldwide.
Periodontitis causes inflammation of the gums and, if left untreated, inflammation can spread throughout the body.
COVID-19 is linked to an inflammatory response that may be fatal. This study investigated the relationship between periodontitis and COVID-19 complications.
In the study, the team examined 568 patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
Of these, 40 had complications (intensive care unit [ICU] admission, ventilator requirement, or death) and 528 did not.
The team found 258 patients (45%) had gum disease.
The risk for COVID-19 complications in patients with gum disease, compared to those without gum disease, was 3.67 times higher for all COVID-19 complications, 3.54 higher for ICU admission, 4.57 higher for ventilator requirement, and 8.81 higher for death.
The team says 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.
One author of the study is Professor Lior Shapira.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.
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