We previously posted about the importance of regular dental care and cleanings during the COVID-19 pandemic, but researchers have now added to the hefty body of research showing how important oral health is during this ongoing pandemic. The link between gum disease and the health of your whole body has never been clearer.
Unfortunately, recent surveys revealed that dental care is the most common type of delayed or skipped care for adults, as well as for kids. In fact, an estimated one in ten adults have delayed dental appointments due to COVID.
Ongoing research throughout the pandemic continues to prove that skipping your routine dental care can add to COVID risk factors as well as other illnesses that impact your whole body.
The Growing Body of Evidence About the Oral-Systemic Link
Dental research has demonstrated many links between oral health and whole-body wellness over the past several decades. One of the earliest established links shows that gum disease can increase your risk factors for heart disease. Pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis, diabetes, preterm labor, arthritis, the list of potential links gets longer every year.
There is still no definitive conclusion as to how direct these links are, or whether gum disease can be said to directly cause systemic illness. However, there is little doubt that a chronic disease state in one part of your body will negatively impact the rest. Beyond just the inflammation from gum disease, there is now very strong evidence that disordered breathing (for example, mouth breathing and sleep apnea) can have drastic effects on wellness. As any hygienist can tell you, mouth breathing also causes severe inflammation in the gums and allow bacteria to grow out of control.
It should be no surprise that oral health is essential to whole-body wellness. After all, the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe: your mouth is the gateway for some of the most essential functions of life! That’s why it is so important to make dental visits a priority, even in this difficult time.
COVID Prognosis and Gum Disease
We have discussed it before, but it bears repeating: gum disease may negatively impact your prognosis if you become infected with COVID-19. Over the past eighteen months, more and more evidence has been collected to show that periodontal disease can worsen the progress of COVID. Primarily, this link centers on inflammation. Just as with other systemic problems mentioned above, the causation cannot be directly proven. However, more and more data show a clear link between periodontal disease and poor COVID outcomes.
Periodontal disease causes an immune reaction throughout your body, not limited just to your gums. Part of that immune response is the release of cytokines. The more severe your gum disease, the more inflammatory markers like cytokines your body will release.
As you may be aware, deaths from COVID are frequently the result of a cytokine storm; an out-of-control immune reaction. This cytokine storm contributes to the progress of COVID-19, and increases your chances of developing pneumonia by causing inflammation in the lungs. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death for COVID patients.
In addition, many patients with severe COVID need to be on a ventilator. An overgrowth of pathogens in the mouth presents a serious problem for patients on a ventilator because it creates a direct pathway for those bacteria to enter the lungs. This can be a disaster for patients with pneumonia.
In short, the healthier your gums and teeth, the more you will be helping your body out if you do become infected with COVID-19 at some point.
We Understand Hesitant Patients
As strongly as we feel about how essential it is for you to protect yourself and your family by keeping up with regular dental attention during the pandemic, we understand why some patients have been hesitant to keep up with their cleanings. It feels like case numbers just keep rising, and with each new variant the uncertainty keeps growing.
However, since day one of reopening last year, Dr. Dunn and the entire team at Lake Baldwin Dental has taken extraordinary steps to ensure the highest possible level of safety at our practice. As always, we practice strict protocols for cleaning and sterilization, and all our team members adhere to all recommendations for personal protective equipment to protect ourselves and our patients.
Most importantly, however, we have ensured the cleanest possible air by adding Surgically Clean Air filtration and air hygiene systems to each operatory. Throughout the pandemic, dental offices have maintained high levels of safety. Dental offices are not considered a high-risk environment for COVID exposure.
If you are concerned about returning to your regular routine or have any questions about how we continue to protect your safety, please do not hesitate to call. We are here to keep you healthy, Orlando!