The COVID-19 pandemic has increased public awareness of the danger of viruses and the importance of a well-functioning immune system.
Our Immune System Protects Against Serious Illness
The variation in the severity of COVID-19 illness is due, in part, to the strength of natural biological defenses.
Of course, you may be wondering why we’re reviewing this in a dental blog. Does it have anything to do with a healthy mouth?
Actually, it does. Scientists have found a link between oral bacteria and viral infections.
Gum Disease is Caused by Bacteria
The oral bacteria in question is Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis for short). The “gingivalis” in its name gives you a clue to what type of bacteria it is. As you may have anticipated, P. gingivalis is the bacteria that causes gingivitis and the more advanced form of gum disease called periodontitis.
Your Mouth Produces Natural Viral Protection
Interferon lambdas are a family of proteins produced by cells in the mouth. These proteins protect us from all kinds of bacterial and viral infections in addition to the coronavirus. The danger of P. gingivalis is that it makes Interferon lambdas less effective at protecting us.
This is how one of the researchers explained it:
“Our studies identified certain pathogenic bacterial species, P. gingivalis, which cause periodontal disease, can completely suppress interferon production and severely enhance susceptibility to viral infection. These resident oral plaque bacteria play a key role in regulating antiviral responses.” Juhi Bagaitkar, assistant professor, University of Louisville Department of Oral Immunology and Infectious Disease.
Oral Health and Physical Health Go Hand in Hand
As if you needed one more reason to prevent gum disease! Not only does gum disease put you tooth loss, it makes you more susceptible to the potential dangers of viruses. To recap: if you avoid gum disease, you protect your mouth from P. gingivalis. This lets you benefit from Interferon lambdas and the virus protection they provide.
Let’s discuss basic oral hygiene behaviors that can prevent periodontitis and keep your smile healthy:
- Brush at least twice daily using appropriate brushing techniques
- Use a fluoride toothpaste
- Floss daily using the correct flossing technique
- Get a professional dental cleaning twice a year
- Schedule twice-yearly dental exams
- Take care of dental problems in their early stages so they don’t progress
Has it been a while since you’ve had a dental exam and cleaning? Call today to schedule a visit. We are located in Murray and serve the Salt Lake City area. Our friendly team of dental professionals is here for and your family.