Dental Health and Your Immune System

Good dental hygiene not only impacts the health of your mouth, but impacts the health of your immune system and overall health. A doctor in the United Kingdom did an experiment for a series on the BBC regarding tooth health and how dental health and immune system health impact one another. He spent two weeks only brushing half his teeth; he wore a gum guard, which protected half his teeth from being brushed. What did he find? What is the correlation between dental health and the immune system?

When returning to brush his full set of teeth, the side that hadn’t been brushed had gum bleeding occur and he developed mild gum diseases. But the repercussions went even deeper than his mouth—his white blood cells were negatively affected by this change. The cells moved slowly and erratically towards an infectious invader, making them less effective against the invasion.

This resulted in inflammation throughout the doctor’s body—just from the mild infection in the gums. While in the short-term, this is the correct and healthy response, in the long term, it can damage the immune system by causing it to go into overdrive, which sets off a whole chain reaction that can damage other cells in the body. Chronic and lengthy inflammation has been linked to developing illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Bad breath can also highlight the connection between mouth health and overall health. It can be an indication that you have an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in your gut. During these times, lower your sugar intake, as sugar feeds the bad bacteria. Taking the time to chew each bite of food also helps keep bad bacteria down. Larger pieces of food can make it difficult to correctly digest the food and it could remain undigested when it enters the intestines, which would allow for more bacteria to build up.

Dental health is an important aspect of your overall health. The body’s systems have a symbiotic relationship in which all parts need to be taken care of in order to keep the whole body healthy. Research has linked poor oral health with cardiovascular disease, stroke, bacterial pneumonia to name a few. Did you know that signs of disease may first show up in your mouth and be recognized by your dental care professional? Be sure to brush and floss regularly in addition to visiting your dentist for regular checkups.

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