The pandemic has prompted many of us to make positive changes to our physical health. People have understood that improving your diet or taking regular exercise leaves you stronger and better prepared to fight off infection. But far fewer people are aware of the strong link between oral health and the immune system. It’s easy to treat your teeth and gums as a completely separate part of your health, but neglecting your oral health could have serious effects beyond the mouth.
Our mouths are full of bacteria - most of it is harmless or even beneficial to us, but some of it can cause problems. Poor oral health - caused by incorrect or infrequent brushing and failing to floss - actually leaves the body much more susceptible to this bacteria. It’s not uncommon for people to develop serious illness as a result of an unhealthy mouth. The main culprit of this is gum disease.
Gum disease can present in varying levels of severity. Gingivitis is the milder form of disease, caused by a build-up of plaque on the gum line. If you’re not regularly clearing your mouth of bacteria and the food debris it thrives on, you’re likely to be at risk. Gingivitis is fairly harmless - apart from the discomfort of its symptoms - but the real danger is that it will develop into periodontitis. Periodontal disease is a more severe inflammation of the gums and the bones behind them.
Periodontitis can ultimately lead to gum recession and tooth loss - but its effects can also be highly damaging in other parts of the body. When oral bacteria enters the bloodstream, it prompts the immune system to react (hence why gums swell up). This isn’t usually a problem but for people with weaker immune systems or more long-term gum disease, it can cause their immune systems to become overstretched and less effective. When oral bacteria is able to affect other parts of the body, it can cause real harm:
Fortunately, these kinds of outcomes from oral bacteria are rare. But even so, periodontal disease - which 47% of adults over 30 are thought to have - is proven to drop our immune systems to a low ebb, leaving us more vulnerable to all types of illnesses. What’s more, it can make pre-existing conditions like diabetes much more difficult to manage.
As well as the health of our mouth affecting our wider health, the opposite is also true. The state of someone’s oral health is thought by many to give a glimpse into how healthy we are in general. Serious conditions like HIV, diabetes and sometimes even cancer can first present with symptoms in the mouth - meaning doctors and dentists are often able to recognise them early. Oral health and the contents of saliva are also frequently strong indicators of a range of health factors such as quality of nutrition.
The potential for poor oral health to do damage to your immune system has one simple solution. All gum disease is initially caused by an accumulation of bacteria in the mouth, but by brushing and flossing regularly and with the correct technique, this plaque can be broken up and washed away.
Making sure you actually do this is another matter. At Floe, our aim is to help you enforce strong oral health habits until they become a natural routine. By delivering a top-up of our quality oral care products to your door every three months, we make sure you always have the tools you need to keep your mouth healthy and clean. Included in our subscription box:
Subscribing to Floe means you’ll never run out of what you need to maintain a strong oral care routine. You can also get 50% off your first box by using the code FLOE50 at checkout!