If you don’t floss regularly, this might persuade you to change your behavior.

Patients with gum disease are more likely to experience severe, potentially life-threatening complications if they contract COVID-19 and need to be hospitalized, according to a new report published online in the Journal of the California Dental Association.

Chronic gum disease, or periodontitis, is characterized by swollen, bleeding gums and bone loss. It produces a bacteria that releases a harmful protein known as IL-6 (interleukin-6). IL-6 is an inflammatory cytokine that can trigger the out-of-control reaction of the immune system known as a cytokine storm.

The report referenced the findings of a German study of 40 hospitalized COVID-19 patients published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in May. It concluded that patients with elevated IL-6 levels were 22 times more likely to suffer respiratory failure and require mechanical ventilation.

The researchers hope the link between periodontitis and severe COVID-19 cases will compel nursing homes to screen residents for gum disease and elevated IL-6 levels. They also suggested that emergency room physicians check patients for gum disease, a diagnosis that could alert nursing staffs to closely monitor a patient’s breathing.

The findings are an important reminder that poor dental hygiene can have serious ramifications for one’s overall health. Frequent brushing and flossing are essential to prevent periodontal disease, including gingivitis, which is reversible.

Many people are putting off dentist appointments during the pandemic because of concerns about infection. Ironically, deferred checkups could put them at greater risk of a severe case of COVID-19 if they have gum disease.

If your gums are swollen and prone to bleeding, it’s important to receive treatment before it becomes a dental emergency. At the Havrilla Center for Periodontics & Dental Implants located in Broomall, PA, attending to your comfort and concerns is our first priority.  Our mission is to provide you with the highest quality of periodontal and dental implant care in a warm and friendly environment.