Oral Health & Immunity: Is There A Connection?

18 Sep 2020

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When we followed the Brush Your Teeth ritual as a child, who knew it would be SO essential? Your oral health is deeply connected to your overall health and immunity. It is a window that offers clues about what’s happening inside your body and can help prevent some heart and lung conditions.  So, before you plan to skip the brushing or flossing, read this!

Oral & Overall Health

The damp, moist environment of your mouth is just perfect for harmful bacteria to thrive. Most of them are eliminated by regular brushing, flossing and practicing oral hygiene. But when left unchecked they can quickly grow out of control. In fact, if you have open wounds in your gums, these bacteria can enter your bloodstream too and trigger your immune system. As a response, it releases a compound called C-reactive protein or CRP. A minimal presence of this protein isn’t harmful, but if released abundantly, it can cause critical health issues [1].

Saliva An Important Immunity Soldier

While these oral bacteria seem rather scary, your body already has a soldier to fight them – your saliva. It contains antibodies and enzymes that attack bacterial or viral pathogens as well as proteins known as histatins. Histatins inhibit the growth of fungi such as Candida albicans that cause various health issues. 

In people with poor oral health, these proteins become weak and are unable to inhibit the fungal growth, which leads to an infection. [2]

Diseases Caused By Poor Dental Hygiene [6]

Poor oral health leads to plaque formation on the teeth. When it spreads it releases chemical mediators such as interleukins, prostaglandins, etc., which cause inflammation in the body [3]. As the inflammation progresses, it causes various systemic diseases such as:

Endocarditis: A heart condition that occurs when the germs from one part of the body spread through the bloodstream and result in the inflammation of the endocardium. 

Cardiovascular Disease: Studies suggest that heart diseases, clogged arteries and strokes might be linked with infections caused by oral bacteria. Brushing the teeth twice a day for at two minutes may potentially lower the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases [5]. 

Pneumonia: Certain bacteria can move from the mouth into the lungs, resulting in pneumonia and other respiratory conditions.

Diseases That May Affect Oral Health [6]

Diabetes: Since diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, gum diseases are more frequent and severe in people who have diabetes. 

HIV/AIDS: Oral diseases such as painful mucosal lesions are more common in people who have HIV/AIDS.

Osteoporosis: Since this is a bone-weakening disease, it is linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. 

Alzheimer’s Disease: With the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, oral hygiene usually worsens. 

Tips To Improve Oral Health [6]

It goes without saying that you should incorporate good habits into your daily routine for maintaining oral hygiene and improving oral health. Here are a few simple things you must do daily to ensure good dental health. 

Brush your teeth twice daily, using any fluoride toothpaste and follow it up with the tongue cleaning ritual.

Floss daily.

Rinse your mouth with mouthwash to remove tiny food particles left after brushing. 

Eat a nutritious diet and limit foods rich in added sugars and artificial sweeteners.

Replace your toothbrush at least every three months.

Visit your dentist routinely for checkups.

Avoid/stop consuming tobacco.

Reference:

  1. https://completedental.com.au/patient-centre/blog/how-can-oral-health-affect-your-immune-system/
  2. https://www.colgateprofessional.com/education/patient-education/topics/systemic/why-a-healthy-mouth-is-good-for-your-body
  3. https://www.adha.org/sites/default/files/7823_Inflammation.pdf
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC88948/#:~:text=Periodontitis%20as%20a
  5. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/11/07/bad-tooth-brushing-habits-tied-to-higher-heart-risk
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475

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