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As a local dentist that always places the needs of our community first, the team at Northfield Family Dental want our patients to have the information they need to enjoy a healthy, great-looking smile for a lifetime. In our Northfield Family Dental blog, we’ve often covered how our oral health can impact our overall health. The connection between gum disease and health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer have long been established in research. Now, a new review study suggests that untreated gum disease may be indirectly related to the intensity of COVID-19 related health complications. The results of this study further underscore why it’s so important that patients continue to visit a local dentist during these trying times.
COVID’s Connection to Gum Disease
A recent study conducted by a German research team discovered that elevated levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a pro-inflammatory cytokine, acted as a significant predictor for respiratory failure and the eventual need for mechanical ventilation for patients hospitalized with COVID-19. When left untreated, gum disease frequently leads to an increase of IL-6.
According to the research team, the results of this show that it is “not an overstatement to conclude that gum disease can increase the risk of respiratory complications in COVID-19 patients.” Additionally, reducing IL-6 levels can potentially reduce the likelihood of complications developing, wrote the research team.
It has already been established by the oral health community that performing a scaling and root planing procedure on patients with gum disease, IL-6 levels can by reduced substantially.
Better Oral Hygiene Can Reduce Complications
In July, a study published in the British Dental Journal examined the importance of quality oral hygiene during the pandemic, since a clean mouth can reduce the bacterial load in the mouth and the associated risk of a bacterial superinfection. Patients who develop a more severe case of COVID-19 show as having higher inflammatory markers and oral bacteria. In the study, researchers concluded that poor oral hygiene could be considered a risk factor for developing COVID-related complications.
If poor oral health can lead to more severe COVID cases, then regular dental care remains an important part of an individual’s regular health routine.
During the initial shutdown in March, dentists were only allowed to provide emergency dental care. Now that these restrictions have been lifted, many patients remain unsure about whether to visit the dentist for routine dental exams and scheduled cleanings. After all, the steps most patients take to reduce their risk for contracting the virus – wearing a mask, reducing their time spent indoors, and maintaining social distancing – remain impossible when receiving dental care. This has caused a significant number of patients to put off receiving the vital dental care their oral health requires.
According to the American Dental Association, the oral health of Americans has seriously declined since the start of the pandemic. Dentists across the country have reported seeing an increase in patients needing treatment for cracked, broken, or chipped teeth. The fact local dentists everywhere are seeing an increase in patients with deteriorating oral health raises concerns for the public’s risk for developing a more severe COVID-related infection.
To help lower that risk and improve overall oral health, patients must continue to receive regular dental care during this pandemic.
You Don’t Need to Worry About the Safety of Dental Care
While it’s natural for patients to feel some level of concern over their health when visiting a local dentist, our team at Northfield Family Dental remain committed to the health and safety of our patients and staff.
Studies have found no evidence that links dental care to an increased risk of a COVID infection. Furthermore, the ADA has publicly stated that dental care remains low-risk thanks to the many safety precautions member dentists have taken to protect their patients.
Your oral health matters, now more than ever. Don’t let any concerns you may have about receiving dental care prevent you from visiting our team at Northfield Family Dental.