Tag Archives: COVID-19

Gum Disease Increases COVID-19 Deaths San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry

Wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands frequently are effective precautions against contracting COVID-19, but your oral hygiene is also an important part of staying healthy.  

Proper oral hygiene might not prevent you from getting infected with COVID-19, but a new study shows that gum disease is linked to worse outcomes for infected patients because it triggers additional respiratory issues that increase the risk of death. Brushing and flossing have always been important, but COVID-19 is a reminder that avoiding gum disease is crucial. Here’s why:

Deadly protein leads to cytokine storm

In a three-month study organized by Dr. Shervin Molayem, founder of the UCLA Dental Research Journal, and Dr. Carla Pontes, a scientist and healthcare researcher in South Africa, researchers identified a harmful protein called IL-6 that is released in patients with gum disease. This protein can spread to the lungs and promote inflammation. Patients who have gum disease can inhale the IL-6 laden bacteria in their gums, where it adheres to the lung tissue. This can cause what is known as a cytokine storm, which is an overreaction of the body’s immune system that leads to severe inflammation of the lung tissue. One of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 is difficulty breathing, and a cytokine storm exacerbates this.

Higher chances of ventilator use and death

Patients who are infected with COVID-19 and have high levels of IL-6 due to gum disease are 22 times more likely to be placed on a ventilator. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 80% of all COVID-19 patients who were put on a ventilator ending up dying earlier in the pandemic. The rate of recovery has increased in the last few months, but there is still no defining predictor of which patients will have worse outcomes. Patients of all ages and health backgrounds continue to die from the virus, and one of the only common denominators is likely the prevalence of gum disease.  

Protecting the vulnerable

As a result of the study, researchers are prompting places with vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes and hospitals, to adopt regular dental screenings to catch early signs of gum disease before patients catch COVID-19. The elderly are especially vulnerable, as they are already more susceptible to gum disease. Most COVID-19 deaths have occurred with patients over the age of 65. 

Regardless of age or health condition, researchers recommend everyone optimize their oral hygiene routine, reduce sugar and carb consumption that can encourage bacteria growth in the mouth, and take daily doses of vitamin C, vitamin D3, zinc and turmeric. While following these recommendations won’t prevent you from contracting COVID-19, they will reduce your chances of ventilator use and death.

“As the death toll keeps climbing, the CDC now predicts [COVID-19] will be among the leading causes of death in the United States, just behind heart disease and cancer,” said Dr. Molayem in a press release about the study. “Now that we suspect periodontitis makes it even deadlier, if you’re worried that you may have gum disease, your next trip to the dentist may actually save your life.”

Get checked for early signs of gum disease 

In addition to daily brushing and flossing, a good oral health routine includes at least twice-yearly visits to the dentist for an exam and professional cleaning. But if you suspect you might have gum disease—symptoms include red, swollen, or tender gums, or bleeding while brushing or flossing—call San Diego Periodontics and Implant Dentistry at (619) 543-0905 to schedule an immediate exam.

Dental Emergency During Coronavirus San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry

Strict social-distancing measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak mean only essential businesses are continuing to operate. So, what will happen to your upcoming dental appointment? Unfortunately, the American Dental Association has recommended dentists postpone regular appointments through April 30, but remain open to handle dental emergencies and urgent dental care.

What is a dental emergency?

A dental emergency is defined as a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. Examples of dental emergencies include:

  • Bleeding from an injury or recent dental procedure 
  • Soft tissue bacterial infection with swelling that could compromise your airway
  • Trauma or injury to the facial bones that could compromise your airway

What is an urgent dental condition?

Some dental issues are not life-threatening, but they still require immediate attention to alleviate pain, decrease the risk of infection, and prevent the condition from worsening. Urgent dental conditions that can be treated during the coronavirus outbreak include:

  • Inflammation of dental pulp
  • Gum infection
  • “Dry socket” after dental surgery
  • Abscesses or bacterial infections
  • Tooth fracture that results in soft tissue trauma or severe pain
  • Full or partial tooth displacement
  • Biopsy of abnormal tissue
  • Final crown or bridge restoration if temporary crown/bridge is lost or broken
  • Suture removal from previous dental surgery
  • Denture adjustment in conjunction with cancer treatment
  • Orthodontic adjustments to relieve pain, such as snipping wires on braces

What types of regular dental care can be postponed?

Regular checkups that include deep cleanings and X-rays can be postponed until social distancing guidelines are relaxed. But even if you don’t have a regular dental check-up or orthodontic adjustment that can be rescheduled, there are other types of dental care that can be postponed if they come up, including:

  • Removal of teeth that are not causing pain
  • Filling cavities that are not causing pain
  • Teeth whitening procedures
  • Restorative dental procedures such as crowns, bridges, dentures, and dental implants
  • Aesthetic dental procedures such as veneers, crowns, and dental implants

What should you do in the meantime?

While you wait for your postponed dental checkup, it’s important to continue your daily oral health routine of brushing and flossing to prevent the occurrence of minor dental issues that can’t be addressed immediately. It’s also a good idea to avoid, if possible, activities that might lead to dental injuries, such as certain sports and dangerous home projects.

How should you maintain good oral health when you’re sick with coronavirus or another illness?

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 (or suspect you have, in the absence of a test), or another severe illness like the flu, it’s important to maintain your daily oral health routine as much as you’re able. Other suggestions to follow if you’re sick include:

  • Buy sugar-free cough drops instead of drops that contain sugar or fructose, which can lead to cavities
  • Stay hydrated to avoid dry mouth, which increases the risk of cavities
  • Buy a new toothbrush to use after the sickness passes

Not sure if you need an emergency or urgent dental appointment?

If you have a moderate to severe dental issue and you’re not sure if it’s serious enough for a dental appointment, the easiest way to find out is to ask. At San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry, we are open to care for emergency and urgent dental conditions, and we can help you determine whether it’s necessary to make an appointment. For more information, give us a call at (619) 543-0905.