How Does Good Oral Hygiene Protect Your Immune System?

father son cleaning teeth floss

While the holiday season has passed, a Christmastime analogy can still get a point across. If you have a long strand of incandescent mini lights, if one bulb is halfway or fully out of its socket it could break the circuit and shut down all the other lights even if they are otherwise fully functional. Similarly, if you are a generally healthy person but neglect your oral health at times, you are giving bacteria an opportunity to potentially compromise your immune system. Read on as your dentist in Richardson explains the far-reaching effects of gum disease and mouth infections, plus tips to protect your immune system.

How Can My Immune System Be Affected by Gum Disease?

Your mouth offers a point of entry for bacteria and germs to enter your bloodstream and respiratory system. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet in the rearview mirror, working to keep your immune system strong remains very important, so your oral health should be prioritized.

Bacteria feed and grow on food debris that accumulates around the edges of your gums and between your teeth. The early form of gum disease, gingivitis, is easily reversed by removing plaque through brushing and flossing, as well as professional cleanings. If your gums bleed when you brush or eat hard foods, you may have gingivitis.

Periodontitis, which is a more severe gum disease, can only be treated by a dentist. Otherwise, the inflammation caused by bacteria not only attacks the gums but the underlying bone that holds the teeth in place! Periodontal diseases cause the immune system to overload.

Why Is an Oral Infection Able to Impact My Body Elsewhere?

As your immune system focuses its attention on an infection in your mouth, it must ignore other parts of the body. According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania, the bacteria causing gingivitis “subverts the immune system” and promotes further inflammation by prohibiting the immune system’s ability to “eat” the invading bacteria.

There is an array of diseases related to a weakened immune system, such as asthma, AIDS, heart disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. Certain cancer treatments and organ transplants can weaken the immune system, along with smoking, drinking alcohol, and poor nutrition. When you are dealing with a head cold, the flu, mono, or measles, your immune system is temporarily weakened. Your immune system has a lot of potential issues to deal with, so keeping your mouth healthy and free of infection allows your immune system to focus on the rest of the body.

What Can I Do to Protect My Immune System?

There are many activities you can work into your routine to avoid infections:

  • Try to avoid stress
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep
  • Brush your teeth daily
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Cook meat thoroughly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Floss daily
  • Have your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year
  • Try to avoid smoking, sugar, acidic drinks, and alcohol

Almost half of all American adults over age 30 deal with some variation of gum disease. By giving your best effort to ensure you are not one of them with help from your dentist in Richardson, it will ease the burden on your immune system and keep you healthier throughout the year!

About the Author

As your dentist in Richardson, Dr. Ellis Shwarts has been working hard for the smiles of patients for nearly a decade now after earning his dental doctorate from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. During a dental cleaning and exam, part of his process is always to check for any signs of gum disease, in addition to tooth decay, oral cancer, and other issues to provide immune system protection in Richardson and, of course, keep your smile going strong. You can schedule an appointment on his website or by calling (972) 437-6035.