TUESDAY, Feb. 9, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Keep flossing: A new study finds that gum disease may raise the chances of hospitalization or death if COVID-19 strikes.
The reason? Gum disease can be a sign of inflammation throughout the body.
"It is well-established that systemic inflammation is not only linked with periodontal disease, but to several other respiratory diseases as well," explained Dr. James Wilson, president of the American Academy of Periodontology.
"Therefore, maintaining healthy teeth and gums in an effort to avoid developing or worsening periodontal disease is absolutely crucial in the midst of a global pandemic like COVID-19, which is also known to trigger an inflammatory response," Wilson said in an academy news release.
In the study, researchers compared COVID-19 patients in Qatar who had severe complications -- including assisted ventilation, admission to intensive care and death -- and those without severe complications.
Of the 568 patients, those with periodontitis -- the most severe form of gum disease -- were at least three times more likely to have severe COVID‐19 complications.
The researchers also found that COVID-19 patients with periodontitis had increased levels of biomarkers (including white blood cell levels, D‐dimer, and C-reactive protein) associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes.
The study, by Nadya Marouf of the Oral Health Institute, Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Qatar, and colleagues was published online Feb. 1 in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.
Systemic inflammation is a symptom of COVID-19, and can also be a symptom of gum disease, the researchers noted.
The findings show the importance of good oral care during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the academy.
Gum disease can cause bleeding gums, bad breath and, if untreated, can lead to tooth loss. Up to half of U.S. adults aged 30 and older have some form of gum disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Previous research has linked gum disease to serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health explains how to prevent gum disease.
SOURCE: American Academy of Periodontology, news release, Feb. 3, 2021