We’re nearing the most wonderful time of the year—as well as flu season. (It’s a double-edged sword.) Behind the snowy playtimes and holiday feasts, winter is also a celebratory season for the influenza virus. Because they thrive in the dry cold, just get the right cocktail of circumstances, and you’re bound to catch it too. But like most illnesses, sometimes all it takes is a few preventive measures to ward the flu away. And your oral hygiene can help fend off the infection.
It might seem like a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. There’s long been evidence that your oral health and your immune system are inextricably linked. Researchers from North Carolina State University noted how gum disease-causing bacteria can suppress your immune system’s response. This then makes you more vulnerable to flu viruses. Gum disease usually happens when there’s an excess accumulation of plaque. And this only really occurs when you neglect your oral hygiene.
In a sense, taking care of your oral care can help assuage the effects of bad flu. Prevent it, even. But how does oral care prevent the flu naturally? And what steps can you take?
How does brushing your teeth help with the flu?
Before we get into the tips, we should first ask how oral hygiene fends away the dreaded flu. According to a blog by The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University, influenza seems to transmit better in the following conditions:
- Low humidity and low temperatures, particularly in places that experience winter, and
- High moisture and lots of rain, particularly in tropical climates.
Just because it’s easy to contract the flu during these conditions doesn’t mean you’ll get it, however. Other states make it more likely for you to get the disease, such as:
- Proximity to someone who already has the flu, and
- Low levels of immune-healthy vitamins, such as vitamin D.
In short, you become more vulnerable to the flu if your immune system is compromised, or if you are around people who are.
How does oral hygiene play into this, then? MD Mag notes how the body uses similar signals for immune system strength and bone health. So if your jawbone and teeth are healthy and robust, your immune system is, too. It also explains why people with gum disease are more likely to get sick with other illnesses than those who don’t have it.
Preventing contamination is key
How, then, can you make sure that your oral health is in check? Here are some key things you could do:
- Keep your hands clean. Your hands go through all sorts of bacteria-filled surfaces, even if it isn’t apparent. Before you eat or brush your teeth, make sure that you wash your hands.
- Don’t share your toothbrush. Bacterial transmission isn’t just limited parents and their children. Anyone who shares oral implements is subject to the same thing. If any of your loved ones is down with the flu, you might want to have your own toothbrush. Or maybe store it in a separate space.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 months. Used toothbrushes are a nasty hideout for bacteria and other unmentionables. Make sure you replace them every 3 months to stave off potential infection.