“It’s amazing to think this medley of microbes in our mouths communicate to the rest of our body!
How exactly are they connected?”
The oral microbiome is the gateway to the gut; mouth microbes seed the gut and therefore reduced diversity in beneficial bacteria at the beginning of the journey can impact on gut health further down the line. The gut lining (gastrointestinal mucosa) is an extension of the oral mucosa (lining of your mouth) and the two are directly linked. There is emerging evidence that bacteria making up the oral microbiome contribute to the risk of developing Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and for those that suffer with IBD, prevalence of poor oral health and gum disease is higher.
The mouth is also our first portal of defence when it comes to immunity. Our secret agent, saliva, contains several mechanisms to restrict microbial growth and protect us against infection. As well as harboring our tonsils (the small organs containing immune tissue that act as a barrier to infection), our mouths are closely connected to our immunity via the tissues that support our teeth: the periodontium. These vascular tissues are sensitive to hormonal and immunological change, as well as communicating to the rest of our body if inflammatory disease is present.
Chronic Inflammatory Diseases
Periodontal (gum) disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that links directly to several other chronic inflammatory conditions including type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and rheumatoid arthritis. When it comes to lifestyle, stress and diet are important factors that impact our inflammatory status, affecting not only our immune system, but our gut and oral health too. This means your oral health has a direct effect on your overall health, and vice versa; systemic diseases affect your mouth’s health too.
Saliva is a host for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, so transmission from the oral cavity into the lungs is inevitable. Since the oral microbiome is closely associated with the lung microbiome, there is known entry of oral pathogens (bad bacteria) into the respiratory tract causing respiratory disease. Bacteria super infections can occur as a result, causing COVID-19 complications such as pneumonia and respiratory distress syndrome. Those with an imbalance in the oral microbiome, resulting in high levels of oral pathogens (seen in periodontal disease and dental decay) are at a higher risk of COVID-19 complications.