Bleeding Gums & Covid-19
Did you know that bleeding gums are a sign of gum disease? While a dental professional should diagnose the exact disease and the treatment needed, if your gums bleed when you floss you may have periodontal disease. Quite possibly, untreated periodontal disease may put individuals at a higher risk for adverse effects of a Covid-19 infection. While there is a lot we don’t know about how this virus interacts with the human body, we do know that patients on ventilators have a higher risk of pneumonia if they have untreated periodontal disease. Additionally, periodontal disease is a co-infection that can compromise the immune system, making it more challenging to fight Covid 19. We also know that periodontitis is correlated with a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Plaque contains bacteria and when it sits for too long at the junction of your teeth and gums, your gums get infected. Plaque also gets sticky and then becomes calculus or tarter. Even the best brushers end up with calculus buildup on their teeth. This is what your hygienist is removing at your cleaning appointment. Calculus also harbors bacteria which infect your gums, causing them to bleed when you brush or floss. Bleeding gums are never a sign of health and should be seen as a warning sign.
How do you know if you have periodontal disease? Bleeding gums are one sign, but sometimes you don’t have any significant symptoms. Your dentist and hygienist will examine your x-rays, periodontal pocket depths and bleeding points to determine if you have periodontal disease. Treatment focuses on removing the plaque and calculus that is causing the infection, and education will help you prevent further periodontal breakdown.
What can you do to reduce your risk?
- Use an electric toothbrush. Mint now carries the Oral B IO electric toothbrush, which tells you not only if you are brushing too hard, but it lets you know if you are not brushing hard enough. Combined with a two-minute timer and a blue tooth app for your phone, this brush will help you remove more bacteria from your teeth than manual brushing alone. While these typically retail for $199, our price is $180 and with the included $30 mail in rebate, it is discounted to $150. Please call the office if you’d like to reserve a toothbrush.
- Floss. What else is there to do during a pandemic? (That’s a direct quote from one of our hygienists!) Make sure you are using a floss that works for you. Thicker flosses remove plaque well, but the thinner, more slippery flosses get between your teeth more easily. If your floss of choice is a slippery floss that glides, or even a floss pik, make sure you are using it effectively by rubbing the tooth surface several times with the floss. This ensures that plaque is removed. Visit us for a sample of our favorite floss!
- Use a Waterpik. Even the best floss leaves some plaque behind, because floss is straight and your teeth are curved. Where they curve out, the floss does a great job. Where they curve in, even just a little, the floss is leaving plaque and bacteria behind. This is where a waterpik can make a difference. This appliance sprays a strong jet of water between your teeth and can remove plaque from places that floss misses.
- See your dentist at least twice a year. Even our doctors and hygienists get calculus buildup on their teeth. If professionals struggle on this front, it stands to reason patients will as well. A professional dental cleaning removes hardened plaque from around your teeth. This calculus harbors bacteria that cause gum disease and other health issues if not removed.
The immune system is generally strong enough to control infections in the mouth in a healthy individual. However, diseases like Covid-19, stress, or other health issues can tip the scales, causing uncontrolled periodontal disease and possibly other health complications. Our team understands many are exercising caution around dental visits during this uncertain time, and we simply want to remind patients that oral health is essential to overall health. To date, according to the CDC, there has been no documented transmission of COVID-19 in a clinical dental setting. Additionally, a study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association found the prevalence of COVID-19 among dentists to be less than one percent. Please rest assured that Mint Dental Works is taking every step possible to ensure a safe environment for our patients and we look forward to helping you with your oral healthcare needs soon!