Many CDC-listed COVID-19 risk factors have links to oral disease. Dental professionals can help patients manage their risk by keeping the oral-systemic link in mind.
On March 29, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its page1 listing certain medical conditions predisposing individuals to severe COVID-19 to include:
Type 1 diabetes
Being overweight (in addition to obesity, which was already listed)
The update comes at a time of shift in the COVID-19 pandemic. In early March, the United States passed the benchmark of having vaccinated half of all adults over the age of 65.2 (The CDC states that more than 80% of COVID-19 deaths occur in people over the age of 65.1) Many states have opened vaccine eligibility to include any adult who wants to receive one. However, variants of SARS-CoV-2 and, in some places, rising case numbers remain a cause of concern. No vaccine is currently approved for anyone under the age of 16.
Many chronic diseases, including most of those added to the CDC’s list, have links to oral disease. Yet many people are still wary of accessing, or simply cannot afford, oral health care. Early on in the pandemic, a PPE shortage and concerns about aerosolization of viral particles, among other factors, spurred a shutdown of dentistry for weeks and made many patients fearful about keeping appointments after practices reopened.
However, time has shown that dental practices can operate safely, especially when compared to more general health-care settings. For dentists, studies by the ADA and ADHA have found that the infection rate was 2.0%; for dental hygienists, it was 3.1%; for all other health-care workers, it was 11%.3
Although the oral-systemic link is not yet definitively mapped—and may, because of the logistics involved, never be4—for dental professionals, one thing remains true. Uncontrolled oral inflammation is associated with other inflammation-mediated conditions. Many clinicians find that when patients are able to address oral disease, overall health improves.
Many epidemiologists now predict that COVID-19 will become an endemic, seasonal virus.5
Some individuals are still hesitant of the vaccine, and some will never choose to receive it. Protecting patients against COVID-19 will continue even after N-95 respirators and temperature checks go away. Dental professionals can help patients manage their disease risk by keeping the oral-systemic link in mind. To that end, we’ve complied a brief list of some of our more recent articles on these conditions.
Untreated periodontitis and COVID-19: What is the evidence? Part 1 of 3
Untreated periodontitis and COVID-19: What is the evidence? Part 2 of 3
Untreated periodontitis and COVID-19? Let’s get progressive! Part 3 of 3
Periodontitis and its association with type 2 diabetes
Turning the heat down: Solutions for reducing chronic inflammation in our patients’ bodies
Do we have it backwards? Whole body health depends on input for periodontal treatment
Was it something I said?
Respiratory diseases: Do breathing issues signal complications caused by periodontal disease?
BaleDoneen Method: Medical model emphasizing dental health component in inflammation reduction
Asthma, allergic rhinitis, and tooth decay
What will it take to prove the oral-systemic links?