Scientists from the University of Washington recently carried out a study that unravels new information regarding gum inflammation and its effects on an individual’s overall health. The study classifies individuals by taking a thorough look at how different people respond to the accumulation of plaque in the oral cavity. Plaque is a sticky, yellowish film that gets deposited on the teeth’ surfaces and is a haven for disease-causing bacteria. This research paper was also published by the National Academy of Sciences and gives pertinent details as to why some individuals seem to show a serious response to plaque accumulation which ultimately leads to teeth loss and other severe complications in the body.

Uncontrolled deposition of bacterial plaque leads to gingivitis. Furthermore, if gingivitis is left untreated, it can transform to its more severe and destructive form known as periodontitis. Periodontitis destroys oral soft tissue as well as the teeth supporting bone. This leads to teeth mobility which can lead to eventual teeth loss. Moreover, chronic inflammation due to periodontitis also has a disastrous effect on overall health and can be a causative factor for heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis, bowel disease and even cancer.

Scientists associated with the study also identified a range of different inflammatory responses of plaque accumulation in the mouth. Bacterial growth in the mouth leads to an inflammatory response in order to reduce the build-up and fight off infection.

The two known phenotypes of oral inflammation are strong/high and low clinical responses. However, this recent study has now introduced a third phenotype – Slow. This newly introduced slow phenotype of oral inflammation is seen to initiate a delayed but strong inflammatory response to plaque and bacterial build-up.

The scientists, through their distinctive study, show for the first time that individuals with a low clinical response still demonstrated a low inflammatory response to various inflammatory signals.

The study’s co-author elaborates on how they noticed a particular group of people who show slower plaque accumulation and a distinct microbiological population. This study will help us understand a variety of gum inflammation which will ultimately lead to better diagnosis and assist in identifying people at higher risk of periodontitis. In addition, this variation of gum inflammatory conditions also comments on the susceptibility of an individual to other chronic inflammatory and infective conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease.

The scientists also see a low-level protective response by the body, which is generated by plaque accumulation. This response contributes by protecting the oral tissues and bone from further destruction. This mechanism commonly exists in all oral inflammatory phenotypes, namely, low, high, and slow. The body, with the help of white blood cells called neutrophils, regulates bacterial growth to maintain homeostasis, a stable state of the body. Neutrophils are the patrolling officers of the body.

A moderate amount of plaque is not an enemy but is, in fact, seen to support normal oral tissue and bodily function. Several studies in mice show that plaque provides a specific pathway for the neutrophils to migrate from the bloodstream through the gum tissue and into the gap between teeth and gums.

Healthy homeostasis is a sign that everything is right in the body. Neutrophils promote the resistance of the body and gum tissues to bacterial colonization and subsequent infections. This low-level protective response helps the body fight against unhealthy bacteria and resist disease. In addition, neutrophils also contribute to the proper control of microbes which maintains good oral tissue and bone health.  This is also why dental professionals worldwide stress the importance of oral hygiene and excellent oral hygiene practices.

At Waterloo Emergency Dental Centre – Waterloo Dentist Office, we care about your oral health and strive to provide you with the best possible treatment and care.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.


STUDY SOURCE: Materials provided by University of Washington School of Dentistry.

Journal Reference: Shatha Bamashmous, Georgios A. Kotsakis, Kristopher A. Kerns, Brian G. Leroux, Camille Zenobia, Dandan Chen, Harsh M. Trivedi, Jeffrey S. McLean, Richard P. Darveau. Human variation in gingival inflammationProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021; 118 (27): e2012578118 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2012578118

DISCLAIMER: The advice offered is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. It is in no way offering a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendations for your particular situation. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified dentist.