Gum disease ‘increases chance of catching Covid’ – how to tell if you’re at risk?

GUM disease can increase your chances of catching Covid-19, experts have warned.

New research suggests if you have gum disease then you're more likely to suffer from severe Covid-19 as the virus can pass through saliva to the lungs.

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From the saliva, experts say the virus can then move directly into the blood stream – which could be more common in people who suffer from gum disease.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham found that blood vessels, rather than airways, are initially infected by the Covid-19 virus.

The experts say that the mouth is a "breeding ground where the virus can thrive".

They stated that people who have a large amount of dental plaque and those who have gum disease would be more likely to have severe cases of Covid as the infection is able to reach the lungs faster.

The findings, published in the Journal of Oral Medicine and Dental Research, suggest that "cheap and widely available mouthwash products are highly effective at inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus".

Observations of lung scans of patients that had contracted Covid-19 led to the collaboration between medical and dental researchers, with the aim of finding the entry point to the blood stream.

Co-author Iain Chapple, Professor of Periodontology at the University of Birmingham said the research could change the way the virus is managed, "exploring cheap or even free treatments targeted at the mouth and, ultimately, saving lives".

He added: "Gum disease makes the gums leakier, allowing microorganisms to enter into the blood.

"Simple measures – such as careful toothbrushing and interdental brushing to reduce plaque build-up, along with specific mouthwashes, or even saltwater rinsing to reduce gingival inflammation – could help decrease the virus' concentration in saliva and help mitigate the development of lung disease and reduce the risk of deterioration to severe Covid-19".

The experts said that a "breach" in oral help would make it easier for the virus to take hold.

Moving from blood vessels in the gums, they explained, the virus would be able to pass through the neck and chest veins.

It would then reach the heart before being pumped into pulmonary arteries and small vessels in the lung base and periphery.

What is Periodontitis?

Periodontitis is also known as severe gum disease.

It is a serious gum infection that damaged the soft tissue in the gums.

If you don't get treatment for it – it can destroy the bones that support your teeth.

Periodontitis can lead to tooth loss and can also make the teeth loose.

It is a common condition but can be prevented with good oral hygiene.

Experts say you should brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss.

As well as this you should get regular dental check-ups – this will make it easier for professionals to spot if you are suffering from the condition.

What are the signs?

The key symptoms of someone suffering with Periodontitis include:

  • Bad breath
  • Swollen or puffy gums
  • Tender gums
  • Pink-tinged toothbrush after brushing
  • Painful chewing
  • Loss of teeth
  • New spaces developing in between your teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Puss between your teeth and gums


There are a number of ways to tell whether or not you're at risk of gum disease.

Having good oral hygiene will generally protect you from gum disease, but unfortunately, the older you get, the more susceptible you are.

People who are diabetic are also at risk of developing gum disease, this is due to the fact that these people have volatile blood sugar levels.

Some medications can leave people with a dry mouth, keeping the bacteria on your gums from being washed away.

More serious illnesses such as HIV or cancer can also negatively alter the health of your gums.

Smoking is also a significant risk factor when it comes to gum health and if your a smoker it can also interfere with how effective treatment for gum disease is.

Los Angeles-based dental researcher Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains, who also worked on the paper said many of the risk factors for severe Covid-19 and gum disease are the same.

He added that these include: "Increased age, male sex, specific ethnic groups, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, type A blood group, chronic kidney disease, and those who find it difficult to care for
their mouth, for example those with dementia, physical disability or learning difficulties.

"It could be that gum disease is a converging and principal risk factor for severe Covid-19.”

Professor Chapple added that daily oral hygiene and plaque control will not only improve oral health and wellbeing, but could also be lifesaving in the context of the pandemic.

In February it was revealed that Covid patients who have gum disease are nine times more likely to die from the virus than those who don't have the oral health condition.

Researchers also found that patients with gum disease were 4.5 times more likely to require a ventilator.

The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology revealed that patients with the oral condition were 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care.

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