Now accepting Telehealth appointments. Schedule a virtual visit.

How Your Dental Health Connects to Your Immunity

Stay Healthy

The Flu and Dental Care: A Closer Look

The 2018 flu season has been one of the worst in 15 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the final week of January 2018, 7.1% of all outpatient visits were for flu-like symptoms, an increase of .5% from the week before. This season has already led to the tragic deaths of 53 children from influenza, and it may only be half over.

While it has already been established that oral health care is systemic health care and that a healthy mouth is positively linked with reduced rates of heart disease and other chronic illnesses, the specific links between harmful bacteria in the oral cavity and susceptibility to harmful systemic viruses are only recently being explored.

According to a recent review from researchers at North Carolina State University in collaboration with the CDC, illness-causing viruses and bacteria interact in two ways:

According to this review, many common oral bacteria associated with gum disease also have an immune-suppression effect that increases susceptibility to cold and flu viruses like influenza and rhinovirus. Two of the most virulent bacteria are:

Porphyromonas gingivalis. P. gingivalis is found in the oral cavity. While it is generally present in low numbers, it has many ways of suppressing the immune system to evade immune responses. Specifically, it delays neutrophil recruitment, impairs immune signaling, modulates the effectiveness of leukocytes, and compromises the integrity of epithelial cell layers. All of these functions cause a microbial shift in the oral cavity, not only increasing the virulence of other harmful oral bacteria but leads to an environment necessary for the survival of other harmful species like Streptococcus gordonii. P. gingivalis. Therefore, is not only a cause of periodontal disease, but a cause of other immune system failures, and has been linked to chronic immune conditions rheumatoid arthritis, and viruses like HIV and herpes.

Streptococcus pneumoniaeS. pneumoniae is a bacteria generally found in the respiratory tract, sinuses, and nasal cavity. It becomes pathogenic when the host immune system is suppressed and colonizes the air sacs of the lungs. S. pneumoniae has a powerful ability to repair its own DNA when damaged by the host immune response, continuing to transfer itself to non-infected cells. While most frequently associated with pneumonia and meningitis, it is also positively associated with periodontitis and oral plaque and increases the risk of death when comorbid with the influenza virus.

Repeated studies have demonstrated the benefits of oral interventions to improve the respiratory health of hospitalized patients, including reducing the need for systemic IV antibiotics, and even shortening the duration of mechanical ventilation in hospitalized ICU patients.

In short, a review of the literature suggests that heightened oral care may be an under-utilized avenue for prevention of disease and mitigation of lethality during cold and flu season. In addition to conventional flu prevention methods such as handwashing, avoiding exposure, and getting a flu shot, additional preventive methods specifically targeting oral health may be beneficial. Here are some additional ways patients can take care of themselves during the flu season:

Oral hygiene is important year-round but is especially important during flu season. It should be a part of a comprehensive approach to the preservation of health and avoidance of illness.


-, Today's RDH. “The Flu and Dental Care: A Closer Look.” Today's RDH, Today's RDH, 10 Feb. 2018,

Kari L. Sakurai , D.D.S. Dr. Sakurai is on staff at UCLA Medical Center, St. John's Health, SM-UCLA Orthopedic Hospital, and at LAC+USC as Assistant Adjunct Professor of Clinical Dentistry. With over 25 years of clinical experience and teaching at cutting edge, Universities helps us deliver the evidence-based technology care to our patients.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Summer Heat...Cold sensitive teeth?

Summer is here! Don't let the cold sensitivity of your teeth inhibit you from cold drinks and treats of the season. Cold sensitivity can be a sign of a more serious dental problem that can be treated. Give us a call with questions and let us help!

School's Out! and so is the Sun!

As we spend more time outdoors it's important to remember to use SPF protection. Remember the top of the nose, ears and lips since those areas are at higher risk for skin cancer. Come on in for your travel-size sunscreen and sunglasses and a bright smile!

Oral Cancer Awareness

Oral cancer will be diagnosed in about 115 people every day in the US alone. When caught in its early stages, there is an 80-90% survival rate! Here's some information to detect the early stages of oral cancer.

Bad Breath.... What to do about it

Bad breath or halitosis is caused by sulfur-producing bacteria in our mouths. The things we eat can cause bacteria to produce sulfur as a by-product. Other things that can cause bad breath are periodontal disease, tonsils, or systemic conditions.

Happy 2023!

It's a New Year which means a rollover in New insurance benefits for many who use insurance. This is a good time to get good preventative measures in place. Check out any sensitive teeth.

What mouthrinse is best?

There are so many different mouthwashes on the market that is can be confusing. What may be right for you may not be for someone else. Here are some facts to consider.