It’s commonly known that any infection of the body will place stress on your immune system. Oral infections cause just as many problems for the immune system as any other infection, with research showing us recently that they could potentially cause the greatest issues.
Doctors and scientists are beginning to realize that several health problems can be traced back to oral conditions, and that general health may indeed start in the mouth.
Preventing these problems simply requires a daily habit of brushing, flossing, using an antiseptic mouthwash, and visiting the dentist every six months. Many people skip flossing, but it is vital for gum disease prevention.
Even if you don’t like string floss, there are alternatives, such as these water flossers reviewed by Pearly Whytes. In this article, we’ll discuss common problems linked to the immune system and oral health.
When improper dental hygiene is present, inflammation is the first problem to arise. Mild gum diseases surface, which is evident when gums bleed from flossing or a proper cleaning. However, beyond the mouth itself, it’s been noted that white blood cells are negatively affected when inflammation spreads.
These cells begin responding slowly and erratically to the invading cells, often times unsuccessfully handling them if the poor hygiene continues.
The longer improper oral care goes unchecked, the more bacteria and inflammation proliferates. Due to the problems with white blood cells, inflammation can spread to other parts of the body, causing discomfort, aches, pains, and possible higher susceptibility to the common cold or flu viruses. Further, the longer inflammation is allowed to affect the body and the immune system, the higher the risk for other serious illnesses. Chronic or long-term inflammation has been associated with the development of certain illnesses, such as Type-2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
When inflammation spreads from overpopulated bacteria in the mouth, it’s a problem because it can reach the heart. When heart valves and arteries become inflamed, the inflammation lays a foundation for bacteria in the bloodstream to attach to the damaged walls. This can increase your chance of heart attack or stroke. As always, the greater the infection, the greater your risk.
Regarding arteries, when severe gum disease affects tooth loss, the potential plaque buildup within even the carotid arteries is much higher. Studies have shown that around fifty-percent of people who have lost nine to ten teeth from gum disease had bacterial plaque buildup within their carotid arteries.
As gum disease is an infection, it will cause blood sugar to rise when it initiates a stress response from the immune system.
The stress response releases cortisol and adrenaline – hormones that work against insulin. Insulin is intended to lower blood sugar, and therefore with these counteracting hormones interfering, blood sugar rises and can make managing diabetes quite difficult.
On the flip side, unfortunately, there is a prevalence of gum disease among those with diabetes, which means diabetics need consistent above-par hygiene for best results. With fluctuating levels of glucose in the blood, the extra sugar feeds bacteria and we all know bacteria growth leads to infection and dental problems, like gum disease. Those with diabetes heal slowly and have a decreased ability to fight infections, including any infections of the mouth, which can turn the struggle into an uphill battle.
Periodontitis is severe gum disease and affects more than thirty-percent of child-bearing age women. Severe gum disease has been associated with preterm-birth and low-weight infants at birth.
When gum disease is present during pregnancy, gum inflammation releases toxins that are then absorbed into the body. Research suggests that these toxins travel through the blood, targeting the placenta, and therefore, the fetus. Doctors have tested women with periodontitis who have also gone into preterm labor and discovered the same toxins from the infected gums present within the amniotic fluid.
Not only are these toxins a cause for preterm labor by initiating the mother’s labor-inducing substances, but they interfere with the development of the baby, which results in a low birth weight. In fact, research has estimated that around eighteen-percent of low birth weight babies is due to an oral infection from the mother.
The Bottom Line
Proper dental hygiene is important for more reasons than avoiding cavities. At the very least, consequences of improper hygiene habits result in bad breath, cavities, toothaches, crowns, and extractions. Worse, your teeth could loosen on their own, erode your jaw, and fall out. However, if left untreated, it doesn’t stop there. Gum disease infections and inflammation can wear down your immune system, giving way to the beginnings of heart disease, the risk of stroke, and the decreased ability to fight off viruses and bacteria.
If you thought brushing your teeth was to only help with bad breath and was somewhat of an inconvenience, think again. The general health of your immune system stems from your dental health.