CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ditching the dentist during the pandemic? It could make COVID-19 even more dangerous.

Dentist offices are back open in North Carolina, but according to the American Dental Association, less people are going in for a regular cleaning.

New research in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology suggests COVID-19 patients may have a higher risk of going to the ICU, needing a ventilator, or even dying; if they have gum disease.

Overall oral health has already been linked to chronic disease. Dentists recommend going in for a regular cleaning every six months.

“With anything dentistry related, it’s good to catch it early,” says Dr. Drew Hines, a Charlotte-area dentist. "So if you have a small problem, it’s better to address it when it’s a small problem rather than when it’s a big problem.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of adults over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease.