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New studies show gum disease may increase severity of COVID-19

New studies show gum disease may increase severity of COVID-19

Everybody on the planet knows about COVID19. Yet with each day, come new discoveries about this mysterious disease. For many, experiencing COVID19 is no more severe than catching a cold. But for others, they experience far worse outcomes such as respiratory failure and death. The risk for contracting a severe form of COVID19 is higher if you have certain medical conditions including cancer, kidney disease, obesity, type 1/2 diabetes, respiratory conditions, high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as being in an advanced age group. Now, recent new studies reveal that one other health condition may also increase your risk of experiencing severe COVID19 – untreated gum disease and poor oral health.

What is the link between untreated gum disease & COVID19?

German researchers have discovered that when COVID19 patients experienced an inflammatory response leading to respiratory failure, their levels of a pro-inflammatory cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6) were elevated. This is the same cytokine implicated in the phrase “cytokine storm” – a term coined to describe the out-of-control immune response occurring in patients with severe COVID19 and other serious auto-immune disorders. People with chronic, untreated gum disease (periodontal disease) experience higher levels of IL-6 as a result of the body’s constant inflammatory response to infected gum tissue. Since elevated levels of IL-6 indicate a strong potential for respiratory complications in COVID19 patients, the authors of the study concluded that treating gum disease and decreasing IL-6 levels may help prevent or reduce severe COVID19 complications.

Earlier British study correlates German findings on IL-6

In June 2020, an English study also found that high IL-6 levels, along with a high oral bacterial load in the mouth, were significant risk factors for severe COVID19 respiratory complications. Their advice: keep good oral hygiene, regular checkups and get gum disease treated!

Treating gum disease to reduce IL-6 levels in the body

The treatment for periodontal disease is quite simple. It is performed by a dentist in a basic dental procedure known as a scale and root planning – a deep dental clean right down to the roots. During this treatment, all oral bacteria are removed above and below the gum line – keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Once gum disease is being properly managed and treated, the body’s inflammatory response winds down along with lower levels of IL-6.


Herold, T., Jurinovic, V., Arnreich, C., Lipworth, B. J., Hellmuth, J. C., von Bergwelt-Baildon, M., Klein, M., & Weinberger, T. (2020). Elevated levels of IL-6 and CRP predict the need for mechanical ventilation in COVID-19. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology146(1), 128-136.e4. Sampson, V., Kamona, N., & Sampson, A. (2020). Could there be a link between oral hygiene and the severity of SARS-CoV-2 infections? British Dental Journal228(12), 971–975. Sampson, V. (2020). Oral hygiene risk factor. British Dental Journal228(8), 569.

Oral health education alone for kids is not enough

Oral health education alone for kids is not enough

Researchers from the Cochrane Public Health Group recently published a review of 38 evidence-based studies on effective community-centred oral health promotion interventions for preventing tooth decay (caries), cavities and gum disease in children. Researchers reviewed interventions in a number of childhood settings including school, community, healthcare and home environments. The results of the review indicated that there was little evidence to show that oral health education alone made a difference in the level of caries in children. Some study results did show that oral health education improved gum health, oral cleanliness and oral hygiene care behaviours.

However, when oral health education was combined with other types of oral health promotion interventions, the impact on children’s oral health was far more positive. A significant improvement in the reduction of caries in children’s baby teeth occurred when oral health education was combined with supervised tooth brushing using fluoridated toothpaste. Caries in children’s permanent teeth were reduced when oral health education was combined with professional dental checkups and preventative care. Other interventions that benefit children’s oral health (when combined with oral health education) include:

  • provision of toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • sugarless non-citric chewing gum
  • motivational mentoring
  • professional dental care
  • application of fluoride varnish and fluoride supplements
  • training of non-professional educators and caregivers
  • improved child diet and restrictions on sugar intake

Essentially, the Cochrane Public Health Group’s review concluded that a range of interventions were necessary to ensure the optimal oral health of children – keeping them free from tooth decay and gum disease, as well as preventing the chronic oral conditions that could affect their future adult health. Sources: “Community-based population-level interventions for promoting child oral health.”, Authors: de Silva AM, Hegde S, Akudo Nwagbara B, Calache H, Gussy MG, Nasser M, Morrice HR, Riggs E, Leong PM, Meyenn LK, Yousefi-Nooraie R. Published: 15 September 2016.

Preventing Dental Emergencies

Preventing Dental Emergencies

What are dental emergencies? Dental emergencies include:

  • Toothaches
  • Abscesses and gum infections
  • Loose or displaced teeth
  • Tongue injuries
  • Broken, fractured or chipped teeth
  • Soft tissue injury (e.g. lips, mouth, gum or jaw)
  • Knocked out teeth

The key to successful emergency treatment is to stay calm and call your dentist immediately for professional advice on your next step. But did you know that most dental emergencies are preventable? You can’t predict when an accident that causes oral injury happens. But you can manage risk by better assessing and preparing for situations with higher risk factors, like contact sports for example. Here are some ways to prevent acute oral injuries and conditions:

  • Mouth-guards – If your sport puts your teeth, tongue, gums, soft tissue and supporting bone at risk, invest in a custom-fitted mouth-guard for better protection, from your dentist. Specialized night mouth-guards can also protect people with a tooth-grinding condition ( Bruxism ).
  • Rules of play – When it comes to children participating in recreational activities, remind them of the rules and conditions of play, that ensure their health and safety. For example, no running around a pool. 
  • Good oral hygiene and care – Dental emergencies occur as a result of poor oral hygiene and care. Toothaches, abscesses and other oral infections can be prevented with good tooth brushing and flossing habits and regular dental check-ups. That way, you can avoid the pain and inconvenience of an acute oral condition. 
  • Healthy diet – Limit eating plaque-forming foods containing high sugar and starches, as snacks. Plaques cause dental decay which can lead to oral infection and gum disease. 
  • Sensible biting and chewing habits – The breaking, fracturing and chipping of teeth can occur from the forceful biting or chewing of sticky or hard food like chewy or hard candy and olive seeds. Non-food objects like glasses, pens and pencils can cause oral injury too. Avoid using your teeth to cut non-food items like tape.

Good common sense, oral care and risk management are key to minimizing the risks of a dental emergency. But if you or your family experience one, contact your dentist immediately.

Sugar-free drinks and lollies cause dental erosion

Sugar-free drinks and lollies cause dental erosion

Sugar-free drinks and lollies cause dental erosion The Oral Health CRC has made an announcement set to rock the sugar-free food and beverage industry worldwide. Their Melbourne-based scientists have warned that regular consumption of most sugar-free drinks and confectionary can cause significant loss of tooth enamel – leading to dental erosion. Dental erosion occurs when acid strips away the enamel and hard tissue of the tooth. In advanced stages, the soft pulp inside the tooth become exposed. Considered the healthier alternative, sugar-free substitutes and products can have positive health effects for reducing the risk of diabetes, obesity and dental decay. However, with the substitution of artificial sweeteners, your teeth are exposed to chemicals with high levels of citrates, tartrates and phosphoric or citric acid. The highly acidic (low-PH) levels of these chemicals cause significant enamel surface softening and loss.

But it doesn’t end there. All of these chemical compounds are also chelators of calcium. This means they bind to calcium resulting in tooth demineralisation. In short, your teeth dissolve. In their study at the University of Melbourne’s Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), researchers tested a large variety of sugar-free drinks and confectionary on extracted human molar teeth. The erosive potential of each sugar-free beverage was measured by changes in enamel hardness values. The study found that the majority of sugar-free drinks caused a decrease of 30% – 50% in enamel hardness. In fact, the researchers found there was no significant difference between the two groups of drinks regarding tooth enamel loss. With sugar-free confectionary, tests were also conducted on adult volunteers. The study measured a PH drop in the saliva of all test subjects. The researchers have advised avoiding all fruit-flavoured sugar-free confections, especially lemon-flavoured – which had high levels of citrates.

On an alarming note, the study also found that the Toothfriendly International logo and “Sugar free for healthy teeth” tagline was found on 11 of the 32 tested confections. University of Melbourne’s Oral Health CRC chief executive, Professor Eric Reynolds, is concerned that parents are buying sugar-free confectionary, believing them to be the healthier option for their children’s dental health. Current product testing and labelling regulations for sugar-free foods and beverages are now under review. Professor Reynolds suggests the best choice of beverage to give you and your children’s teeth the best chance is…(you guessed it)…water. And for a healthier sweet treat, eat fruit.

For more tips on preventing tooth erosion from sugar-free products from Professor Reynolds, visit: To read an online briefing paper titled  “The potential of sugar-free beverages, sugar-free confectionery and sports drinks to cause dental erosion” published by the Oral Health CRC, visit: