If you suffer from any periodontitis or any other severe oral health problem, it is important to be aware of any autoimmune causes and symptoms, so you can manage a potentially new and developing medical situation.
Recent research suggests a potential link between long-term oral infections and the development of autoimmune conditions like dermatomyositis and rheumatoid arthritis (R).
Here, you’ll find descriptions of autoimmune conditions and long-term oral infections as well as an explanation for the potential link between both these types of illnesses. You’ll also receive some advice on how best to treat each of these two conditions.
What is an Autoimmune Condition?
A healthy and robust immune system contains specialized white blood cells that create antibodies. These antibodies fight destructive pathogens, protecting your body against disease and illness.
If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, your immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign bodies and your cells. Because of this confusion, the immune system will produce autoantibodies that sabotage and damage your healthy cells.
Researchers are still unclear about the precise cause of autoimmunity. However, some argue that the body becomes more susceptible to this condition when existing antigens produce antibodies that mislead your immune system. There are two main types of autoimmune disorders.
- Organ-specific autoimmune diseases affect a singular organ in your body, like the thyroid or the pancreas.
- Systemic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis harm several organs in your body.
Research shows that long-term oral infections may well play a role in triggering certain systemic autoimmune diseases (R).
There are several early symptoms of autoimmune disorders, including prolonged periods of tiredness and fatigue, bodily aches and pains, limited mobility in the hands and feet, difficulty focusing, and hair loss.
If left untreated, an autoimmune disorder can cause severe damage to your body’s tissue and organs.
What is a “Long-Term” Oral Infection?
Long-term oral infections occur when an excess amount of bacteria forms on your teeth after eating or drinking. If you don’t clean your teeth properly, this bacteria creates a film of plaque that builds up to cause decay and irritated gum tissue, leading to gingivitis and periodontitis.
One of the consequences of periodontitis is the chronic inflammation of your gum tissue. This inflammation plays a potential role in triggering several systemic diseases.
There are many symptoms of long-term oral infections, including swollen and bleeding gums, bad breath, loose teeth, and pus-filled abscesses forming underneath your teeth and along your gums.
The Link Between Oral Infections and Autoimmune Conditions Explained
Several recent studies have pointed towards a connection between long-term oral infections and autoimmune conditions, citing several potential explanations.
- Fuelling Inflammatory Reactions in the Rest of the Body
Studies suggest that long-term oral infections work to upregulate oral inflammation so these inflammatory reactions spread to other parts of your body (R). Upregulation is the biological term for when individual cells heighten their response to an external stimulus. This heightened response often results in the cells producing more protein or ribonucleic acid than they would normally.
This upregulation can weaken your immune system, as can the metastatic inflammatory reactions that spread to other tissues and organs within your body. Research shows that as these reactions advance around your body, you may be more likely to develop systemic autoimmune disease.
- Triggering Excessive Antibody Production
If you suffer from a long-term oral infection like periodontitis, you’ll have a build-up of plaque between the roots of your teeth and your gum tissue. The potentially harmful bacteria in this plaque triggers a reaction from your immune system, which produces antibodies to protect the healthy cells and tissue in your mouth.
Research shows that these types of specific bacterial infections can trigger the activation of autoreactive T cells, which cause autoimmunity. It’s possible that by fuelling the production of a large number of localized antibodies, a long-term oral infection will also trigger the production of both autoantibodies and autoreactive T cells (R). These types of cells can lead to systemic autoimmune disease.
- Metastatic Spread and Circulation of Infection
Some researchers suggest that transient bacteremia can cause a body-wide distribution of your oral infection. Transient bacteremia is the medical term for when potentially harmful bacteria flows through your bloodstream for a short period. If these antigens are in your body, they can spread to other organs and tissues and induce infection.
The spread of these oral antigens and microbes may cause heart disease and diabetes (R). The circulation of periodontal infection leads to a weakened immune system and tissue debilitation, both of which can trigger autoimmunity.
Researchers have run case studies into the links between periodontitis and systemic autoimmune disease. One of the most extensive took place over 30 years and involved over 1,500 randomly-selected Swedish subjects, beginning in 1985 when the subjects were 30-40 years old (R).
The results, published in 2017, were equivocal yet promising. Those people with a more significant amount of plaque in their mouths were also more likely to experience autoimmunity and disease.
Periodontal infection can be quite tricky to address. Location, pharmaceutical resistance, and re-infection are all serious issues. There is little clinical evidence to describe the outcomes of treating periodontal infection to address autoimmune conditions. In addition to treatments, there are a number of preventative actions shown to help avoid trouble in the first place.
Ozone therapy is an innovative form of treatment that uses the ozone compound to destroy infective antigens like bacteria. Harmful bacteria contain very few antioxidant components, and, since ozone is a strong oxidant, it can destroy these bacteria while not affecting your healthy cells.
This therapy type works to activate and bolster your immune system and acts as an anti-infective agent (R). Removing your oral infection helps minimize the possibility of metastatic antigen spread while strengthening your immune system to protect against autoimmunity.
Arguably, ozone therapy is a safer treatment than the standard course of prescribed, potentially harmful drugs (R). It could represent an exciting alternative method for relieving systemic inflammation and autoimmune disease.
Preventative Measures & Lifestyle Changes
There are several alternative ways to treat both long-term oral infections and autoimmune conditions.
- Brush your teeth correctly, and at least twice a day. Do this after meals, so you can clean away the plaque that sticks to your tooth’s enamel. Brush in a circular motion to reach and clean all parts of your teeth and gums.
- Floss between your teeth to dislodge and remove harmful bacteria.
- Use fluoride mouthwash to strengthen your teeth’s enamel and prevent bacteria build-up.
- Moderate your diet so you’re eating less starchy and sugary food.
One of the most effective ways to treat an autoimmune condition is to take specific preventative measures, including:
- Avoiding inflammatory food-types, like trans fats and starchy grains. Opt for lean protein, wholemeal carbs, plenty of dietary fiber, and unsaturated fats instead.
- Don’t drink or smoke to excess as both alcohol and tobacco can severely weaken your immune system.
- Exercise regularly as physical activity strengthens your immune system and reduces inflammation in your body.
Multiple studies suggest a correlation between long-term oral infections and the development of autoimmune conditions. It’s possible that these inflammatory infections spread to other parts of your body, weakening your immune system and increasing the likelihood of autoimmunity.
It’s essential to be aware of this potential link so that, if necessary, you can take steps to improve your oral health and help to minimize the possibility of developing severe systemic disease in the future.