The recent pandemic has put seasonal flus in the back seat, but they are still around and much more common than one might think. The cold weather, lack of sunlight and the general reduction in outdoor time puts your immune systems under stress, making it the easiest time of year to pick up an annoying bug. That’s why it’s important to do everything you can to boost your body’s natural defenses to keep healthy this winter.
The link between oral health and the health of the rest of the body has been well established, but it’s becoming clear that a clean mouth also reduces the body’s susceptibility to systemic viruses and harmful bacteria. That’s because viruses that cause illness can exploit bacterial components in the body in order to penetrate a host cell or gain entry by causing bacterial pathogenesis. Long story short, the presence of bacteria makes it easier for viruses to make you sick.
On top of that, common oral bacteria have long been associated with gum disease also act as immune system suppressants that increase the likely hood of being hit with a bout of cold or flu.
Porphyromonas gingivalis is commonly found in low numbers, but if elevated, can impair the immune system and increase the virulence of other harmful bacteria by providing the environment a viruses need to grow. An illness like strep throat is caused by streptococcus pneumoniae which is a bacteria found in the throat, sinuses and nasal cavity. If the immune system is suppressed it can become pathogenic and turn into strep throat, pneumonia or meningitis.
Studies have shown that oral interventions can help the respiratory health of hospitalized patients and the cleanliness of our mouths should not be overlooked. Oral care is being underutilized as a disease prevention method, specifically in warding off the common cold or flu by keeping our immune system in top shape. The mouth is a gateway into the body, and functions as a first line of defense against bacterial and viral intruders.
How should you to take care of your mouth to avoid cols and flus?
Luckily, taking care of your mouth isn’t rocket science – you’re likely doing it already. To do the best you can, a regiment of cleaning your teeth regularly (after meals or at least twice every day), daily flossing to clean in between your teeth and visiting your dentist for regular checkups that include professional cleanings are a must. Drinking lots of clear fluids to rinse your mouth, eating healthy and getting exercise will also help.
- Brush and clean your teeth regularly, including the areas in between teeth.
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleaning appointments
- Always wash your hands before eating, brushing and flossing to keep bacteria away from your mouth
- Keep your toothbrushes fresh, replacing them every 4 months at a minimum or after you’ve recovered from an illness
- Always rinse your toothbrush in hot water and allow it to airdry in an upright position
- Never share your toothbrush, even with family members
- Drink lots, eat healthy and get exercise
While oral hygiene is something you should always be taking care of, the winter season makes it extra important to be vigilant you’re doing things correctly. Oral healthcare should be part of your comprehensive plan to stay healthy and avoid illness. If you’re unsure if your oral care routine is correct, or for more information, please contact one of our offices.