Feb. 09, 2024 - minute readminutes read

The Importance of Oral Health for a Strong Immune System

Did you know your oral hygiene ritual is doing much more than keeping your teeth and gums healthy? Good oral health habits contribute to better overall health, including reducing your risk of developing serious diseases and illnesses. Let’s take a look at how practicing good oral hygiene can keep your immune system strong.


The immune system: an overview

The immune system is composed of a complex network of organs, tissues, cells, and proteins that work to block invading pathogens and combat any that have breached those initial defences.

The two main components of the immune system are the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system provides an immediate response to invading pathogens. It includes physical barriers, such as skin and mucous membranes, as well as specialized cells that destroy pathogens.

The adaptive immune system provides a slower, more specific response to pathogens. It includes cells that produce antibodies to recognize and neutralize specific pathogens and other cells that directly attack infected cells.

Both parts of the immune system work together to protect the body from infection and disease.

Your mouth’s role in the immune system

There are several immune defences in your mouth that aid in blocking and fighting harmful pathogens.

The oral microbiome plays an important role in fighting pathogens.

  • Beneficial bacteria compete with harmful bacteria for resources, such as nutrients and space, making it harder for the harmful bacteria to survive.
  • The pH 6,5-7 of saliva is neutral and favourable for most species of bacteria
  • Some microorganisms in the oral microbiome produce antimicrobial substances that can kill or inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.

Overall, the oral microbiome serves as a first line of defence against harmful bacteria and helps to maintain the health of the oral cavity and the rest of the body.

Factors that weaken immunity

For your immune system to function at peak performance, it is important to avoid behaviours that have a negative effect on your overall health.

Behaviors and factors that contribute to a weakened immune system include:

  • Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality
  • Chronic stress
  • Poor nutrition
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Environmental irritants

It's important to note that these factors do not necessarily guarantee weakened immunity, but they can increase the risk of infections and illnesses. Existing infections also weaken your immune system, which can trigger a compounding cycle of illness that may result in chronic disease.

The impact of oral hygiene on the immune system

At GUM®, we approach oral health holistically. This means that we recognize the interconnectedness of the body’s systems and how maintaining balance in one can, in turn, strengthen another.

Regular interdental cleaning, brushing and using mouthwash are key to maintaining your oral health, but these practices also have a net positive impact on your immune system’s ability to fight off common illnesses and reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases.

Immediate impact of oral health on immune system function

Practicing good oral hygiene does not guarantee you won’t get sick, but it can lower your odds of catching that cold that’s going around and, should you catch it, help you get over it faster.


  1. Oral hygiene behaviours remove harmful bacteria and the food they need to thrive, maintaining the balance of your oral microbiome. This frees up your body’s defences to attack other harmful pathogens that enter your body.
  2. If you do get sick, maintaining your oral health ensures your body’s adaptive immune response only has to fight a battle on one front and can lead to a shorter duration of illness.

Long term impact of oral health on immune system function

Committing to a lifelong practice of good oral hygiene can reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases such as gum disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Poor oral hygiene has a cascading effect on your whole body's health. Accumulation of plaque can lead to gingivitis. Untreated gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease. Both are what’s commonly known as gum diseases. Once the disease has reached this stage, it can trigger systemic health issues that may affect your heart,  brain…

All of this places an extreme burden on your immune system and makes it more difficult to fight off other pathogens that enter your body.

Here are additional resources that explain the link between oral health and body health:

Keep your immune system strong with proper oral hygiene

Practicing a complete oral care routine that includes twice-daily brushing, interdental cleaning, and rinsing will maintain balance within your oral microbiome.

Making positive changes to your lifestyle, such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and reducing stress, can help strengthen your immune system and improve your overall health.

Clean between your teeth

1. Gently and effectively clean where a toothbrush can’t, using a gentle interdental brush

2. Brush teeth to keep them looking and feeling healthy, clean and radiant

3. Rinse with a gentle mouthwash to strengthen your teeth and gums and prolong the effects of your good brushing

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