How Well Does Your Immune System Protect Your Mouth?

3d red cellsYour immune system is biological system that protects your body from infections and diseases. It works by detecting harmful and/or foreign pathogens, from bacteria to viruses, and eliminating them before they can harm your healthy tissues and cell structures. In some cases (like gum disease, to be specific), the same mechanism designed to fight infection, namely inflammation, can cause more harm to your own tissues than it does to the offending microorganism. By tricking your body, gum disease germs can survive your immune system’s onslaught, turning inflammation into a dangerous liability rather than an effective weapon against health problems.

Inflammation: Defensive, or Dangerous?

Inflammation, or the swelling of body tissue, occurs when healthy tissue cells are damaged, injured, or infected. The damaged cells release chemicals that cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissue, causing the area to swell and isolate the malicious microbes. In the case of gum infection, however, the mouth germ, Porphyromonas gingivalis, produces a molecule that helps it evade your immune system, leading to rampant inflammation as your body continues to hunt it down.

Mouth Germs and Immune Systems

Although excessive inflammation can damage your healthy tissues, your immune system contains built-in checks and balances to help moderate or avoid collateral damage. Regulatory cells, known as T-cells, tell the inflammatory response to stand down before it gets out of hand. In cases of periodontal disease and the chronic presence of P. gingivalis bacteria, T-cells may be manipulated and shut down, preventing your body’s ability to check the swelling. Before long, the rampant inflammation and bacterial infection can lead to severe periodontal disease and tooth loss.


Dr. Ryan Hussong is a dedicated restorative, family, and cosmetic dentist who is passionate about helping patients create and maintain beautiful, healthy smiles. To schedule a consultation with us, call the Cornerstone Dental office today at (515) 984-6001. We proudly serve patients of all ages from Polk City, Ankeny, Grimes, Ames, Johnston, Urbandale, and Des Moines.