The overwhelming threat we face from COVID-19 conveys to us a responsibility to find ways to prevent and combat this deadly disease. It wasn’t long after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19* a global pandemic that the surge of SARS-CoV-2 information began getting published. The plethora of articles included clinical case reports, profiling of the molecular structure of the virus, and analysis of biological data harvested from pandemic hot spots. Hypotheses abounded, most related to identifying COVID-19 risk factors, mapping the infection’s pathway, and figuring out prophylactic and therapeutic blueprints.What is noticeably missing is research on how low-grade chronic infections such as periodontitis—one of the most prevalent diseases in the world—may influence the trajectory of COVID-19. This includes the possibility that periodontitis could be a predisposing factor with the potential to increase the risk for complications of COVID-19, precipitating life-threatening respiratory sequelae.
This article proposes the hypothesis that untreated or unstable periodontitis may be a significant yet overlooked source of pre-COVID-19 co-infection that may add to the body’s inflammatory burden and consequently exacerbate risk for this deadly virus and its complications. Oral healthcare providers (OHCPs) will be urged to become more vigilant in diagnosing and treating periodontitis and stabilizing the reduced periodontium during long-term periodontal maintenance, and specific recommendations for progressive periodontal intervention will be proposed.
Casey Hein, MBA, BSDH, RDH, is an internationally recognized speaker and extensively published author with over 40 years’ experience as a dental hygienist in private practice, public health, education, and government. She first began speaking about periodontal-systemic links in 2003 and founded the first publication on oral-systemic science, called Grand Rounds in Oral-Systemic Medicine. She is a pioneer in implementation of periodontal-systemic science, medical-dental collaboration, and providing primary-care services traditionally delivered by physicians and nurses in dental offices.