Is there a link between the immune system and oral health? Can the immune system create cavities?

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Can the immune system create cavities

The link between an individual’s overall health and oral health is undeniable. Various studies conducted during the last two decades have helped in establishing the same. Diabetic complications, dementia, lung condition, and heart condition have been associated with dental health in the past. Now, recent studies have proved the connection between the immune system and oral health.

Individuals with immune system-related disorders often face a higher risk of developing cavities, gum overgrowth, burning mouth syndrome, dry mouth, as well as periodontal disease.

The effects of autoimmune diseases on oral health

Autoimmune disorders happen when the body’s immune system starts attacking the body’s healthy tissues and cells instead of targeting from invading microorganisms to defend the body.

Some of the most commonly reported symptoms of these disorders are low-grade fever, dizziness, and fatigue. Women are more prone to autoimmune disease compared to men. Autoimmune disorders can cause severe oral health issues that need immediate attention. There are more than 80 autoimmune disorders; let’s focus on the crucial ones that can affect the patient’s oral health.

  • Sjögren’s syndrome

When it comes to the list of autoimmune diseases that severely affect oral health, Sjögren’s syndrome makes it in the list of top three. Patients experience dryness of mouth and eyes along with problems in eating and swallowing. It also reduces saliva production, resulting in taste, speech-related issues. The dry environment in the mouth promotes dental cavities.

Maintaining proper oral hygiene and visiting the dental office for check-up remains crucial for such patients. They remain prone to candidiasis (fungal infection) while suffering from this disease. Tongue’s cobblestone-like appearance is one of the primary symptoms of this condition.

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus is another autoimmune disease that involves the immune system mistakenly attacking the healthy tissues. It causes brain, kidney, and joints related problems in the patient. Fever, weight loss, rashes around cheeks, sores, and mouth ulcers are some of the prominent symptoms.

  • Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is a life-threatening condition involving inflammation of the digestive tract. There are several symptoms of this disease like malnutrition, weight loss, fatigue, severe diarrhea, abdominal pain. However, its impact on oral health helps in detecting the medical condition during its initial stage. Swelling of the lips, ulcers in the mouth, and swelling of the gums along with difficulty in eating, are primary symptoms.

  • Scleroderma

Another long-term, progressive autoimmune disease is Scleroderma. It involves abnormal growth of blood vessels and connective tissues resulting in organ failure. The patient’s facial skin slowly becomes thick, and he or she starts experiencing problems in swallowing.

  • Hashimoto’s disease

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that deserves a special mention. It triggers the inflammation of the thyroid and gradually destroys it.

The condition may not show any symptoms in its initial stages. However, over time, patients may experience weakness, facial swelling, and difficulty in swallowing.

Immune cells called neutrophils end up triggering tooth decay

Colonies of good and bad bacteria manage to thrive in the mouth due to the constant supply of nutrients (food particles), and the presence of warmth, as well as moist condition. The same bacteria are responsible for most of the oral health problems. Severe conditions like cavities, periodontal disease can be caused when harmful bacteria grow out of control.

Believe it or not, even normally functioning immune system cells combine with mouth bacteria and trigger dental health issues.

In April this year, researchers at the University of Toronto’s Dentistry Faculty found evidence pointing out how neutrophils (immune cells) end up damaging the teeth while destroying the harmful bacteria.

Yoav Finer, the Associate Professor and the lead author for the concerned study recently interacted with journalists and shared some exciting details about their research work.

Neutrophils’ immune cells are short-lived and help in combating inflammation in various parts of the body. They are also found in the mouth and act as the body’s first line of defense against harmful pathogens. While examining these cells, scientists found that the cells are present in the gums and manage to enter the oral cavity to fight off the harmful bacteria. But, the way neutrophils fight with bacteria is just like carpet bombing or using a hammer to hit the fly sitting on the wall.
Finer suggests neutrophils alone do not cause any damage to the teeth. However, the oral bacteria release acids to defend themselves while under attack from these cells, and this demineralizes the tooth structure rapidly. Further, the weakened tooth remains vulnerable to enzymes released by the neutrophils as well as harmful bacteria. The study also highlighted that besides triggering significant tooth decay, deadly collaboration could also result in filling failure.

Co-author of this study, Michael Glogauer also shared a similar option by terming the reaction as nothing less than the collaboration of destruction. He stressed on the point that patients with a resin made tooth-colored fillings often end up with a damaged lining and need refilling. Put simply; neutrophils cells can break resign made fillings and even damage the tooth dentin while fighting with the bacteria.

The study has once again highlighted the importance of developing new treatment strategies along with filling materials that are durable to face such collaboration of destruction. Several oral health care product manufacturers have already started working on mouthwashes, toothpaste, and dental filling materials that can help in controlling the impact of neutrophils.

As mentioned earlier, maintaining proper oral hygiene can help in keeping dental issues away, even if the patient is suffering from multiple other medical conditions.

The patient should not ignore any of the symptoms in the mouth and opt for timely dental examination to keep the adverse effects of diseases under control. Need a trustworthy dental care expert in Roswell (GA)? You should think of making an appointment with TruCare Dentistry today. Dr. Toral Ardeshna has assisted several patients suffering from oral health issues triggered due to immune system-related disorders in the past.