Your mouth is the gateway to your body, and when your mouth is unhealthy, it can cause serious health problems elsewhere. The bacteria in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body, leading to infection and inflammation. This can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of various health problems—even potentially fatal problems like heart complications.
That’s why it’s important to understand rotten teeth and their effects on the body and to take the necessary steps to maintain good oral health. Let’s take a closer look at how your mouth influences your overall health, the effects of tooth infection on the body, and explore effective ways to prevent oral health issues and any excess damage they can cause.
The Connection Between Oral Health and the Immune System
Maintaining good oral health is one of many ways to ensure overall well-being. Unhealthy teeth and poor oral hygiene can lead to negative impacts on your immune system and increase the risk of infections and diseases. While gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral health problems might seem like they only affect those regions in the mouth, if these problems go untreated for long, harmful bacteria can enter your bloodstream and spread to other structures, compromising your immune system—a potentially life-threatening condition called “sepsis.”
Good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing twice a day, flossing, and seeking family dental care for regular dental check-ups, are the single most effective steps you can take to prevent oral health problems and keep your immune system strong.
Factors Impacting Oral Health & Immunity
Maintaining good oral hygiene contributes to a strong immune system and can help prevent a variety of diseases and infections. However, several factors can impact both oral health and immunity levels.
Unhealthy diets can have significant negative impacts on both oral health and immunity. Foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can contribute to the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth, leading to a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
The bacteria in plaque thrive on sugar and produce acid that can erode tooth enamel and damage gums, leading to cavities and inflammation. These inflammatory agents can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections in general—not just in the mouth.
Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods can help ensure that the body has the necessary nutrients to support a strong immune system and healthy, strong teeth.
Drinking enough water is essential for keeping the body hydrated and maintaining healthy saliva production. Saliva helps to lubricate the mouth, neutralize harmful acids produced by bacteria, and wash away food particles and bacteria that can cause tooth decay and compromise healthy gums.
Cigarette smoke contains harmful chemicals that can weaken the immune system and cause other primary conditions that threaten your health. Smoking increases the risk of developing oral infections, including gum disease and tooth decay, by drying out the tissues around the mouth and allowing the proliferation of bacteria. Smoking can also impair the body’s ability to heal after oral surgery or other dental procedures as it constricts the blood vessels, leading to poor circulation and immune response.
Smoking can also cause cosmetic issues in the mouth, such as stained teeth, bad breath, and a loss of taste and smell. These problems can have a significant impact on a person’s self-esteem and overall quality of life.
Studies have shown that chronic stress can weaken the immune system. When the body experiences stress, it produces stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can suppress the immune response, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infections and heal damaged tissues. This can increase the risk of developing oral health problems, as well as a host of other issues like hypertension, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and depression.
Stress can also lead to behaviors that can harm oral health, such as teeth grinding or clenching, which can cause damage to the teeth and gums. Additionally, stress can cause people to neglect their oral hygiene routine, leading to a higher risk of developing oral health problems.
Some medications, such as those used to treat cancer or autoimmune disorders, also have immunosuppressant qualities. To maintain good oral health while taking medication, it is important to work closely with healthcare providers and dentists to manage any side effects. This may involve taking steps to reduce the risk of oral infections through specialty hygiene protocols or products like prescription mouthwashes to help prevent infections.
In some cases, medications may need to be adjusted or changed to help reduce the risk to individuals who are at high risk of developing oral infections, such as those with a weakened immune system.
Age is a significant factor that can impact oral health and immunity. As we age, our immune system may become less effective at fighting off infections, making older adults more susceptible to oral health problems.
Many older adults experience gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. This condition occurs when bacteria build up on the teeth and gums, causing inflammation and damage to the surrounding tissues.
Overall, maintaining good oral hygiene practices, eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking can help to support both oral health and immune function.
How to Clean Your Mouth From Bacteria
Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for preventing a range of oral health problems, including tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. One of the most important aspects of oral hygiene is keeping the mouth free of bacteria that feed on leftover sugars from the food we eat, which can accumulate in hard-to-reach areas between the teeth or at the gum line.
The tips will show you how to clean your mouth from bacteria and maintain a healthy and clean mouth—plus a strong immune system.
Brushing Your Teeth
Brushing your teeth is one of the most important steps in keeping your mouth free from harmful bacteria. It is recommended that you brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time using fluoride toothpaste.
When brushing, use gentle circular motions to brush all surfaces of your teeth, including the front, back, and chewing surfaces. This helps get rid of bacteria in the mouth as much as possible, while the fluoride in toothpaste helps to strengthen the enamel layer of your teeth.
Flossing helps to remove food particles and plaque from between your teeth and along the gumline, where your toothbrush may not be able to reach.
It is recommended that you floss your teeth at least once a day, preferably before bed. To floss properly, take a piece of floss about 18 inches long and wrap it around your fingers, leaving about 1-2 inches between your hands. Then, gently slide the floss between your teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Be sure to curve the floss around each tooth and slide it under the gumline.
Using an antimicrobial mouthwash can be an effective way to kill bacteria in gums and freshen your breath at the same time. It is important to note, however, that mouthwash should not be used as a substitute for brushing and flossing, but rather as a supplement to your oral hygiene routine.
When choosing a mouthwash, look for one that contains an antimicrobial agent, such as chlorhexidine, or essential oils like thymol, eucalyptol, menthol, or methyl salicylate. These agents make getting rid of bacteria in the mouth easier. It’s also best to choose an alcohol-free mouthwash as alcohol can dry out tissues in your mouth, which can make the accumulation of bacteria worse.
Cleaning Your Tongue
Cleaning your tongue is an overlooked part of daily oral hygiene routines, as bacteria can accumulate on the surface of the tongue and contribute to bad breath and other oral health problems.
One of the common ways to clean your tongue is to use a tongue scraper. Tongue scrapers are small, plastic, or metal tools designed to gently scrape the surface of the tongue and remove any bacteria or debris.
Chewing Sugar-Free Gum
Chewing sugar-free gum is a simple and effective way to help kill bacteria in your gums. When you chew gum, it can help to stimulate saliva production, which washes away bacteria. Saliva contains natural enzymes that can break down food particles and neutralize harmful acids produced by bacteria that damage the enamel of your teeth.
Sugar-free gum typically contains artificial sweeteners that do not promote the growth of bacteria that can cause tooth decay.
By following these practices, you can help to keep your mouth clean and free of bacteria, reducing the risk of dental problems. It is also important to visit a dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings, so schedule an appointment now!