With the common cold, flu and the threat of COVID-19, protecting immunity is more important than ever. Dental health also plays a role in the proper functioning of the immune system. Bacteria in the mouth that can cause health problems such as gum disease can weaken the immune system. Sometimes it will show symptoms in the mouth if there is a problem in a different part of the body. The link between oral health and the immune system is related to bacteria found in the mouth. Naturally, there are healthy bacteria in the mouth. The warm humid environment of the mouth and its near neutral pH are perfect for bacteria to thrive. Oral bacteria grow on the inside of the cheeks, tongue, gums, and other parts of the mouth. Although these bacteria can thrive in the mouth, they sometimes make their way to other parts of the body. Scientists think that more than 24 types of mouth bacteria may be associated with diseases and conditions in other parts of the body.
Bacteria can get into the blood
If teeth are not brushed or flossed every day, food particles remain, causing bacteria to multiply, out of control, and inflammation of the gums. Many complications can arise when bacterial growth gets out of control. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream as tooth decay develops and the gums recede or start bleeding from gingivitis. Once in the blood, these bacteria stimulate the immune system to react, releasing a substance called C-reactive protein or CRP. Initially, the presence of this protein is not harmful, but if it is constantly released, there is a risk of causing other health problems. This constant tension to fight oral bacteria and infection can lead to chronic inflammation (persistently low level) in the body, as the body constantly produces white blood cells to protect itself. As the body continues to send white blood cells and fight infection, the immune system is depleted, making the person susceptible to both short-term and chronic illness. Bacteria can also infect the respiratory system if not controlled.
Dental Health and Immunity
The immune system depends on every part of the body. It is the immune system’s job to attack and kill any bacteria that invade the body. When bacteria multiply in the mouth, the body’s immune system will react. The immune system is the body’s built-in defense system to help protect against foreign infectious organisms, germs, allergens and more. Many people think of it as a specific area of the immune system, but it’s actually a system of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues that go all over the body. When cuts or wounds are made in different parts of the body, the body can fight infections with this system. Gingivitis and periodontal disease are inflammatory diseases caused by excessive bacterial abundance. Inflammation from bacteria signals the immune system to take action. These inflammatory bacteria are the enemy of the immune system and work tirelessly to disrupt the immune system’s germ-killing response. When the immune system needs to focus its attention on the mouth, it overlooks other parts of the body where inflammation and infections occur. This condition contributes to further inflammation by preventing the immune system from attacking invading bacteria in other parts of the body. Having other health conditions increases the severity of the process and causes the disease to take over the body. It is known that getting plenty of rest, proper nutrition and exercise can play a role in fighting disease and keeping the immune system strong, but taking good care of teeth and gums can also increase immunity. Better oral health can be expected, with better overall health and fewer illnesses or problems.
Autoimmune Diseases and Oral Health
Immunology associations explain that diseases and disorders caused by oral bacteria, especially caries, gum disease and bad breath, are common. More serious diseases such as autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular diseases can also be linked to poor oral health. Keeping oral bacteria in the mouth at healthy levels can also protect immunity, so common diseases such as colds and flu can be better fought. Just because the immune system helps fight bacteria, viruses, and more doesn’t mean people never get sick. In fact, usually once a person becomes ill and his body develops a resistance to this disease, he or she is immunized. However, autoimmune diseases that the body tries to combat can disrupt oral health and cause oral problems. Some of the autoimmune diseases (about more than 80) that affect oral health include:
Sjogren’s Syndrome: This syndrome affects the function of the salivary glands, which may be a cause of dry mouth. Less production of saliva and dry mouth can lead to chronic odor in the mouth, tooth decay and gum disease. In order to restore minerals to the teeth and wash off plaque and food, there must be plenty of saliva in the mouth.
Crohn’s Disease: This disease can cause gum swelling, mouth ulcers and swollen lips. If patients do not follow this situation, they may experience problems with eating and swallowing.
Scleroderma and more: Others, such as this immune system disease and Hashimoto’s disease, can cause swelling and difficulty swallowing.
Health Problems Associated with Poor Dental Health
In addition to tooth decay and gum disease, having poor dental health can lead to chronic inflammation, serious health problems, including:
Cancer – Inflammatory cells can damage healthy cells and even cause DNA damage that leads to some types of cancer.
Heart disease – Inflammatory cells contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries.
Diabetes – Patients with diabetes often experience problems with gum disease and tooth decay. This is because diabetes affects the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone responsible for turning sugar into energy. Chronic inflammatory chemicals can lead to insulin resistance. When the body is less sensitive to insulin, higher blood sugar can occur, leading to type II diabetes. People with diabetes should be very careful in oral health practices in order to keep their teeth and gums healthy.
Having poor dental health can also increase the likelihood of getting colds and other short-term or acute illnesses.
Ways to Keep Mouth Healthy
Oral hygiene is important for better oral health and a better immune system. In general, better nutrition is required to stay healthier. A proper diet full of all essential nutrients will help avoid chronic illness. Dental plaques that cause cavities can be reduced with a healthy diet low in sugar. Plaque is a byproduct of bacteria in the mouth and sugars in foods and drinks. It is also what causes tooth decay and gum disease. One of the easiest ways to maintain oral hygiene is to take time each day to thoroughly clean teeth and gums. This means brushing the teeth thoroughly twice a day, at least two minutes each time. Proper brushing means gently moving the bristles of the toothbrush in a small circle along each tooth, from bottom to top, towards the gum line. In addition, Flossing should be used at least once a day to clean the mouth from food stuck between the teeth that the bristles cannot reach. Those with an autoimmune disease or diabetes should brush more often.
Another way to protect teeth and gums is through preventive dentistry. Preventive or preventive dentistry is to brush the teeth before problems start to arise and to go to the dentist to examine the mouth even if there are no problems. This not only preserves health, but can also save the person from intense and expensive procedures in the future. Regardless of their health, everyone should go to a dentist twice a year for a checkup. The dentist can keep oral health in check and immune system problems in a low range. Better oral health can lead to a significantly better immune system. In order to ensure a happy and healthy smile and a strong immune system, attention should be paid to hand cleaning as well as tooth brushing and flossing. In addition, stress should be minimized, regular exercise should be done, adequate and quality sleeping conditions should be provided, healthy eating, sugar and acidic beverages should be avoided, smoking, alcohol should not be used or, if used, it should be kept at a reasonable level, and a healthy weight should be maintained.
Author: Muserref Ozdas