Key Elements of Innate Immunity
Before examining the specifics of oral infections and the host response, several key elements involved in immunity will be summarized. In higher animals, resistance to a pathogen includes a non-adaptive, non-specific or innate response (natural immunity) and an adaptive or acquired response, which act in concert to protect the host. A simple way to remember this is to consider innate immunity as what you are born with. The innate response occurs in the same way and to the same extent regardless of how many times a pathogen is encountered. In contrast, an adaptive or acquired response occurs after a pathogen comes into contact with the host and a “specific response” to that pathogen is developed and stored in a memory bank for any future contact. On second contact with the pathogen, a more rapid and heightened immune response ensues to eliminate it.