Immune System Balance and Flexibility in Maintaining Good Oral Health

Immune System Balance and Flexibility in Maintaining Good Oral Health

The immune system is highly dynamic and flexible, changing in reaction to the surrounding environment. While it is well known that the immune system fights infection and cancers, including those of the dental, oral, and craniofacial region, it is less clear how it functions in the balance between oral health and oral disease. This initiative supports research to understand how the immune system remains flexible to maintain good oral health, both in the absence and presence of disease or injury, in order to develop new treatment strategies.

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The immune system protects the body with its flexible, fast reaction to the changing environment. It responds to oral diseases—like periodontitis, caries, and oral cancers—by activating cells that fight infection and repair tissue damage. However, there are several factors that challenge the ability of the immune system to maintain this flexibility, such as interactions with other organ systems like the neurological system. The immune system also changes as we age, responding less efficiently to immune challenges like disease and injury. The immune system should also not be overactive, as this can lead to autoimmune diseases like Sjögren's syndrome. Therefore, it is essential that the immune system is adaptable, responsive, and dynamic as it functions to maintain good oral health and target oral diseases across the lifespan. This initiative will support research that advances our knowledge of how the immune system remains flexible and responds to a vast array of diseases and injuries. Further, this initiative builds upon existing research to encourage the development of tools and technologies for restoring immune system flexibility to better fight illness and maintain good oral health.

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