Washing your hands, maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask, and regularly cleaning your environment are all important ways in which you can protect yourself from COVID-19. But did you know that maintaining a healthy smile might also help you stay well during this pandemic? In this blog post, we’ll discuss the fascinating connection between your oral health and your immune system.
Oral Bacteria Can Invade the Bloodstream
There are over 700 different species of bacteria that exist in the oral cavity, according to one estimate. Some types of bacteria are harmless, and some of them are even helpful. However, there are numerous types of oral bacteria that can be dangerous. Whenever you eat, these bacteria feed on food particles in your mouth and multiply. They can lead to plaque, dental decay, and gum disease. Gum disease is a particularly serious problem because not only does it cause inflamed gum tissue, but the bacteria that cause it can also use your gums as a gateway into your main bloodstream. Once it is there, it may trigger a dangerous immune response.
Oral Bacteria and the Immune System
When harmful bacteria (like the bacteria from gum disease) get into the blood stream, they start a chain reaction in the body. The liver releases C-reactive proteins (also called CRP). On a short-term basis, CRP is nothing to worry about. However, untreated gum disease can lead to chronic inflammation and long-term elevated CRP levels. Sustained high levels of CRP increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks.
Another problem that can arise from oral bacteria in the bloodstream relates to the immune system’s capacity to fight infection. The continual effort to combat gum disease can “distract” your immune system and even overload it. As a result, it will have reduced power to help your body fight off other illnesses.
Protect Your Smile to Protect Your Body
Clearly, caring for your oral health is an essential part of looking after your overall health. Here are a few tips to help you keep your teeth and gums in good shape:
- Regularly visit your dentist for checkups and cleanings (most individuals should attend a preventive appointment every six months)
- Brush your teeth twice a day and be sure to clean the area along your gumline
- Floss daily
- Drink plenty of water
- Limit your sugar intake
The human body is a complex creation that is full of interconnected systems. What happens in your mouth can have consequences for every part of you! Partnering with your dentist to prevent gum disease and other oral health problems will help to keep you well from head to toe.
About the Author
Dr. Darren Koch attended The University at Buffalo, where he earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 2001. Since then, he has completed numerous continuing education courses and has earned a sterling reputation for clinical excellence. Among the services he offers are comprehensive preventive care and gum disease therapy. To learn more about Dr. Koch and our practice, contact us at 919-859-6633.