Lethal autoimmune complications in COVID-19 patients with untreated gum disease

August 7, 2020 -- Patients with inflammation caused by periodontitis may experience more severe COVID-19 complications, according to an article published online July 30 in the Journal of the California Dental Association.

Good oral hygiene prevents bacteria in the gums from entering the bloodstream and triggering inflammation, which prompts the release of the protein interleukin-6 (IL-6). Since high IL-6 levels can destroy tissue and the linings in blood vessels and lungs and reduce oxygen, sources of inflammation, like gum disease, should be eliminated to prevent complications, according to the authors.

Oral pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2 enter systemic circulation and can cause upregulated production of inflammatory mediators leading to lethal cytokine storm. Patients with periodontitis are prone to producing these proinflammatory cytokines. Moreover, oral bacteria can predispose individuals to pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and potentially COVID-19 pulmonary complications.

"Dentists should promote screening, plaque control, and periodontal treatment because a healthy periodontium can help decrease the severity and complications related to COVID-19," wrote the group, led by Dr. Shervin Molayem, a periodontist in private practice in Los Angeles.

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