A recent study was carried out at the University of Washington that unravels previously unknown aspects of gum inflammation and the body’s response. The study identifies and classifies people on the basis of how they respond to plaque accumulation on teeth’ surfaces. Plaque can be defined plainly as a sticky, yellowish film that houses disease-causing bacteria. This research, published by the National Academy of Sciences, gives deep insight into why some individuals show a more serious response to plaque accumulation.

Unchecked deposition of bacterial plaque leads to gum inflammation and causes gingivitis, leading to swollen and bleeding gums. In cases of uncontrolled gingivitis, the disease progresses to its destructive form known as periodontitis. Once periodontitis sets in, it starts destroying oral soft tissues as well as the teeth supporting bone. This can cause loose teeth, and eventually, tooth loss if still not checked. Moreover, this puts the body in a state of chronic inflammation, which can lead to heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis, bowel disease and even cancer.

The study has also shown a range of different inflammatory responses of plaque accumulation in the mouth. Bacterial growth in the mouth leads to an inflammatory response, which prohibits bacterial build-up and resists infection.

Up until now, the two major known phenotypes of oral inflammation were: strong or high and low clinical response. With this study, a new third phenotype has been introduced – Slow. The slow phenotype of oral inflammation shows a delayed but strong inflammatory response to plaque and bacterial build-up. The scientists, through this comprehensive study for the first time, show that individuals with low clinical response still demonstrated a response to various inflammatory signals.

The authors of the study also elaborate on a said group of people who show slower plaque accumulation as well as a distinct microbiological composition. The fresh findings of this study will help us understand the nuances of oral inflammation better, ultimately leading to better diagnosis and identification of individuals who are at greater risk of periodontitis. These inflammatory conditions of the oral cavity will also enable us to find out individuals at risk of chronic inflammatory and infective disorders.

The scientists who carried out this study also noticed a low-level protective response by the body, which is in response to bacterial plaque accumulation in the mouth. The low-level protective response protects the oral soft tissues and jawbone from any further destruction. This protective pathway is common to all oral inflammatory phenotypes. The body takes the help of its patrolling white blood cells called neutrophils to regulate bacterial growth. This contributes to the maintenance of a stable internal body environment, maintaining homeostasis.

An adequate amount of plaque should not be seen as an enemy as it is seen to support the health of normal oral tissue and the body. Previous researches done on mice also show that plaque provides a pathway for the front line warriors of the body, the neutrophils, to migrate from the bloodstream, through the gum tissue and into the crevice between teeth and gums.

Healthy homeostasis means that the body is functioning normally and as it should. Neutrophils lower bacterial colonisation and also resists infections. This in turn, also contributes to proper bacterial control, which is essential to maintain proper oral tissue and bone health. This is also why dental professionals around the world focus so much on the importance of excellent oral hygiene like proper brushing habits and flossing.

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.