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  • Dr. John Chao

Fight the Flu by Keeping Your Mouth Healthy and Free of Infection

A healthy mouth is positively linked with reduced rates of heart disease and

other chronic illnesses. How harmful bacteria in the oral cavity can increase

susceptibility to harmful systemic viruses having been received more and more

attention from researchers.


Many common oral bacteria associated with gum disease also have an immune-

suppression effect that increases susceptibility to cold and flu viruses like

influenza and rhinovirus, according to researchers at North Carolina State

University in collaboration with the CDC and reported in the RDH Journal.

According to the RDH Journal, two of the most virulent bacteria are:

Porphyromonas gingivalis. P. gingivalis is found in the oral cavity. While it is

generally present in low numbers, it has many ways of suppressing the immune

system to evade immune responses. P. ginivalis has been linked to chronic

immune conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, and viruses like HIV and herpes.

Streptococcus pneumoniae. S. pneumoniae is a bacteria generally found in

the respiratory tract, sinuses, and nasal cavity. It becomes pathogenic when the

host immune system is suppressed and colonizes the air sacs of the lungs. S.

pneumoniae has a powerful ability to repair its own DNA when damaged by the

host immune response, continuing to transfer itself to non-infected cells. While

most frequently associated with pneumonia and meningitis, it is also positively

associated with periodontitis and oral plaque and increases the risk of

death when comorbid with the influenza virus.


Illness-causing viruses and bacteria interact in two ways:


● Direct interactions, in which a virus exploits a bacterial component to

penetrate a host cell, leading to viral infestation, such as the flu.

● Indirect interactions, in which a viral infection causes increased spread

of bacterial infections.


In short, a review of the literature suggests that heightened oral care may be

an under-utilized avenue for prevention of disease and mitigation of lethality

during cold and flu season. In addition to conventional flu prevention methods

such as handwashing, avoiding exposure, and getting a flu shot, additional preventive methods specifically targeting oral health may be beneficial. Here are

some additional ways patients can take care of themselves during the flu

season:

● Get regular dental checkups and dental cleanings

● Brush and clean in between teeth regularly

● Wash your hands before flossing to prevent bacteria from entering the

mouth

● Replace toothbrushes every 3-4 months, and discard a toothbrush if it

was used while suffering from the cold or flu

● Thoroughly rinse toothbrushes after use and allow them to air-dry in

an upright position between uses.


So see your dentist to keep your immune system operating at an optimal level.

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