When dentist offices opened back up, Beverly Hills dental surgeon Dr. Shervin Molayem saw many people had been neglecting their teeth.
"A lot of mouths that are bleeding and they need attention," he said.
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While numerous studies show inflammation from gum disease can double a person's long-term risk of heart disease, Maloyem believes it can also make you more susceptible to suffering from acute COVID-19 symptoms.
His research shows one of the main contributors is the inflammatory marker interleukin 6 (IL-6).
"When we get plaque in our mouths and into our gums, what that does is the IL-6 and the other inflammatory proteins get released locally," Molayem said.
It travels quickly to the lining of the lungs and other organs. Molayem said a German study connecting high levels of IL-6 in critically-ill COVID patients spurred his own research.
"It showed that these IL-6 levels, when over 80, is a predictor for being on a ventilator," Molayem said.
His findings suggest if a gum disease patient has high levels of IL-6 when infected, they are far more likely to be hospitalized and suffer severe respiratory problems.
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Maloyem said studies have shown patients with other respiratory infections such as pneumonia have improved symptoms following teeth cleaning.
"We urge hospitals and medical doctors to set up dental protocols to check their gums," he said.
Besides gum disease, other things that raise IL-6 coincide with COVID-19 risk factors such as age, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Molayem's advice is to do what you can to lower inflammation and don't be afraid to go to your dentist.
"We have to be proactive during this time, and take responsibility. Get the knowledge and information and then act on it," he said.
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