Dental professionals all over the world stress the importance of having good oral health and practising proper oral hygiene. They always have put great importance on brushing twice a day with a proper toothbrush and toothpaste and flossing. Some also suggest supplementing regular oral hygiene with a mouthwash.

A recent study done at the University of Washington further supports the importance of proper oral hygiene as it unravels new aspects of gingivitis and the body’s response to it.  Researchers involved with the study classified various individuals with regards to how they respond to the accumulation of plaque in the oral cavity. The sticky, yellowish-white film, which accumulates on the surface of teeth, gums and at times even the tongue, is known as plaque and houses bacteria.

The study published by the National Academy of Sciences gives us conclusive details on why people seem to show an exaggerated and much more severe response to plaque accumulation. This can lead to mobile teeth, ultimately can also cause teeth loss and also leads to various morbid complications in the body.

Unchecked and uncontrolled deposition of bacterial plaque leads to gingivitis, an inflammatory gum disease. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that progresses to its more severe and destructive form; periodontitis. Periodontitis is a dangerous form of gum disease that compromises the integrity of oral soft tissues and destroys the jawbone. This leads to loose teeth and eventual loss of teeth. In addition, chronic inflammation because of bacterial infection and periodontitis poses a significant threat to an individual’s overall health. It can cause heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis, bowel disease, and even cancer.

Researchers also identified a range of different inflammatory responses to plaque accumulation in the mouth during the course of this study. There were only two known phenotypes of oral inflammation; strong or High and low clinical response. However, with this study, researchers found and introduced a third phenotype – Slow. The Slow phenotype of oral inflammation initiates a delayed but strong inflammatory response to plaque and bacterial build-up.

The researchers, through their comprehensive study, show for the first time that individuals, even with low clinical response, still showed a low inflammatory response to a wide variety of inflammatory markers.

The study’s co-author also sheds light on how they saw a particular group of people showing a slower rate of plaque accumulation and a different microbiological population. The study promotes and betters our understanding of gum inflammation. This will lead to better diagnosis, prompt treatment and assist us in identifying people who are at greater risk of periodontitis. Moreover, the variation in the gum inflammatory response to bacteria also helps us better understand an individual’s susceptibility to other chronic inflammatory and infective conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease.

A low-level protective response is generated by the body to plaque accumulation as found by the researchers, which protects the oral tissues and jawbone from further destruction. This protection mechanism is seen in all oral inflammatory phenotypes, namely, low, high, and slow. The body, with the help of white blood cells known as neutrophils, regulates bacterial growth and maintains homeostasis, a stable state of the body. Neutrophils can be thought of as the patrolling police officers of the body and protect it from harm.

A proper amount of plaque should not be seen as an enemy as it is known to support the normal health of oral tissue and the body. Many studies done in lab mice tell us that plaque provides a specific pathway for the neutrophils to exit the bloodstream, travel through the gum tissue and into the gap between teeth and gums.

Healthy homeostasis shows that everything is right in the body. Neutrophils promote the existence of this healthy balance and resist bacterial colonization and infections. The low-level protective response enables the body to fight against unhealthy bacteria as well as prevent infections. Neutrophils assist the adequate control of microbes which is essential for the maintenance of good oral health.

If you have any questions or would like to book an appointment, please contact us today.


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.