SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay.
In the quest for links between oral health and systemic health, I found some important information on present day pandemic and gum disease.
Is there a relationship between your gums and Covid-19 disease?
You bet. Gum disease may have a great influence on Covid-19 disease progression, severity and the effect on the lungs.
What is Covid-19 disease?
Covid-19 disease is caused by SARS-CoV-2, a coronaviruse. It is a respiratory virus. First coronavirus was identified in 1965. They are named corona due to a crown like appearance. The virus can infect humans and other animals(1). Other coronaviruses include MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). These viruses are pretty clever. They can jumping from one animal to another. If that animal (human) has never had a contact with one before, it may result in mild to severe reactions like the present Covid-19 disease. The severity of the disease may depend on the health status of an individual who contracts it. It’s been confirmed that there have been over 5.93 million deaths of COVID-19 all over the world (2).
Just in case you are new to Floss Bosses’ Blog, let’s review what gum disease is.
Gum disease affects the soft tissue (gums) and / or hard tissue (jaw bone) around the tooth. It can affect one tooth or a full dentition. It may lead to tooth loss. There are many factors affecting someone’s risks of gum disease. Poor home care, lack of regular professional teeth cleaning, genetics, immune system diseases like diabetes can affect how healthy or unhealthy gums may become. One of the most significant indicators are presence of specific type of bacteria like P. gingivalis and F. nucleatum (we will come back to them).
What is the relationship between gum disease and Covid-19 disease?
A bit of history first… The “Spanish Flu” of 1918…
The Spanish flu (1918-1920) was caused by influenza virus (H1N1). It was the most severe pandemic on record with 500 million people dying all over the world (3). The interesting fact is that 95% of the mortality was due to bacterial co-infection some of them acquired from the mouth (4). Is the mouth the root of all evil?
In modern times, we’ve been affected by a pandemic since 2020. New research has now shown that co-infection phenomena may have played a role in severity and progression of Covid-19 disease. Bacterial co-infection occurred in 7% of hospitalized Covid-19 patients (5).
What might be the cause of co-infections and severity of Covid-19 disease?
The mouth contains the second largest microbiota in human body (second to the gut). This includes bacteria, fungi, viruses and achaea. Many opportunist pathogens make mouth their home. When conditions favour, they strike.
Gum disease germs and oral hygiene might be key players. Oral hygiene or professional teeth cleaning is one of the most underestimated prophylactic and therapeutic treatments. We have been researching the impact oral health has on systemic health. Multiple studies have shown that oral pathogens have an influence on pneumonia progression in elderly. Gum disease, calculus and dental plaque bacteria like P.gingvalis and F.nucleatum have been detected in lungs of ICU patients.
Oral hygiene, prevention and swift treatment of gum disease by regular professional teeth cleaning are most important sentinels that guard against systemic impactions including complications from viruses like SARS-CoV-2 and influenza. By means of aspiration, the pathogens of oral cavity may travel to the lungs of compromised patients leading to imbalance of upper respiratory tract potentially causing upper respiratory tract infections.
What do we do about it?
Is it time to incorporate dental hygiene care like teeth cleaning into prophylactic and therapeutic routines of risk patients with a risk like our elderly? YES
I believe gum disease is still one of the most under diagnosed and under treated diseases. 7 out of 10 Canadians have or have had it. Implementation of oral care interventions like regular professional teeth cleaning, therapeutic agents (Xylitol) and new technology like laser assisted periodontal therapy for patient with higher risk of infections (seniors, immune compromised) are imperative to good overall health.
Dental hygiene clinics have been placed in an advantageous position to fight gum disease. This is literally all we do, all day long. Prevention and non-surgical treatment of gum disease are our forte. Another advantage dental hygiene clinics have is lower fees. For example, at Floss Bosses, we are use 2019 Alberta Dental Fee Guide despite increasing costs and general increase in dental fees across the province.
The teeth cleaning visits and home care like flossing, brushing and rinsing with anti-microbial rinse are as important as initial teeth cleaning treatment. Teeth cleaning needs to always be modified to individual needs. Teeth cleaning at Floss Bosses is always customized. It is almost never the same as your neighbours.
Please, when you notice bleeding gums, go see your dental practitioner to have it checked and treated.
To all my non-dentals, go floss, brush, get your teeth cleaned & smile for your better health!