You probably already know that maintaining good periodontal health can keep your teeth strong, clean, healthy and most importantly, in your mouth. You know that regular periodontal check-ups can help you avoid gum disease, cavities, bone loss, oral cancers, even bad breath. You likely also know that the sooner you catch a periodontal issue, the easier it is to treat, and the less likely it is to morph into a bigger, more difficult problem.
But did you know that visiting your periodontist regularly can help you in the fight against COVID-19 and other systemic diseases? This has been proven by many studies conducted over the past 18 months. In every study, good periodontal health strongly correlated with lower incidence of severe COVID-19. Moreover, periodontal woes were associated with a number of known COVID-19 risk factors, such as hypertension and diabetes.
If you have neglected your oral health during the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps out of fear of exposure to the virus in a dental office, you may unknowingly be increasing the chance that you contract a severe case.
Regular periodontal treatment not only keeps your teeth and the structures surrounding them healthy but also helps in the mitigation of COVID-19 and other systemic viruses.
Periodontal Health and Disease Risk
In a way, oral and periodontal health serve as barometers for the health of the entire body. When a person has poor oral hygiene and serious periodontal issues, the problems usually don’t stop there. A physical or comprehensive medical exam on such a person will often reveal a host of more systemic issues, such as obesity, high blood pressure or heart disease.
Lack of periodontal health is also indicative of increased risk for specific illnesses and viruses, such as COVID-19. These viruses tend to be worse in those with periodontal issues for a number of reasons:
Oral Wounds: Entry Pathways for COVID-19 and Other Viruses
Periodontitis, defined as an oral wound of 40 square centimeters or greater, and other lesions in the mouth provide ideal entry points for COVID-19 and other virus particles. An open wound anywhere on the body allows foreign particles an easy way into the bloodstream. The inside of the mouth is an especially vulnerable spot, as it is much more vascular and has much thinner skin than most parts of the body.
To avoid giving COVID-19 an easy way into your system via periodontitis or an oral wound, you should get regular check-ups, particularly during pandemic times.
Diabetes, Obesity and Hypertension: Their Connection to Periodontitis
Four of the most common comorbidities associated with an elevated risk of serious illness from COVID-19 are diabetes, obesity, hypertension and lung disease. These ailments are also closely correlated with periodontal disease. Though the exact nature of the cause-and-effect relationships can be difficult to infer from the study data, it stands to reason that one reason ailments such as diabetes and hypertension lead to an elevated COVID-19 risk is because of their connection to periodontitis. Keep in mind we’ve already established the pathways by which periodontal wounds lead to COVID-19 exposure. The risks associated with periodontal disease appear to be even higher for patients with diabetes and other comorbidities.
The Effects of “Bad” Bacteria on Viral Infections
Periodontal disease creates a hospitable environment for millions of strains of “bad” bacteria. The presence of these bacteria in your body can wreak havoc on your immune system, making it less effective at fighting off viruses. If you want to minimize your risk of severe illness from COVID-19, you need your immune system in top working order, and for that to happen, you should ensure you’re not inviting unwanted bacteria into your system.
Inflammation and the Immune System
Inflammation also lowers immune function. If it is bad enough, it can render your immune system almost worthless. Studies indicate that patients with periodontal disease have substantially higher inflammatory markers than those with good dental and periodontal health. There has never been a better time to get the inflammation in your body under control. One of the best ways to do that is by staying on top of your periodontal health.
Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 and Other Illnesses Through Periodontal Health
By now you’re surely familiar with the most common COVID-19 mitigation measures, from vaccines to hand-washing. Sadly, though, few public health officials have mentioned periodontal health in discussing how we can win the fight against the virus. But by staying on top of yours, you can take one more step to keep your COVID-19 risk as low as possible.
The easiest way to stay on top of your periodontal health is to have regular check-ups with your periodontist. If you have avoided doing so because of COVID-19 exposure worries, you might want to reconsider. A periodontist’s office, such as that of Dr. I. Stephen Brown at The Perio Group in Philadelphia, is one of the safest, cleanest, most sterile places you can be during a pandemic, making the risk of exposure minimal — far lower than the benefits of identifying and treating any periodontal health issues early.
Treating Periodontal Disease
If a periodontal exam reveals periodontitis or another issue, you should treat it right away. Doing so not only prevents it from progressing into something more complicated and difficult to treat down the road, but it also provides an immediate reduction in your risk level for COVID-19. Remember, any oral wounds or lesions, even small ones, serve as ideal openings for viruses to enter your bloodstream. The less time you spend walking around with a periodontal issue, the better.
To schedule a consultation with a top-rated periodontist in Philadelphia today, call Dr. I. Stephen Brown at The Perio Group.