Many studies and observations have found a strong relationship between oral and overall health. We all know that oral diseases and conditions have a significant impact on an individual’s overall health and vice versa. It’s no wonder that dental professionals all around the world stress so profoundly the importance of oral hygiene and the maintenance of appropriate oral health.

These practices and beliefs have once again gained greater assurance with a recent study carried out at the University of Washington. The study reveals new details with regards to gingivitis and the body’s response. The researchers conducted a comprehensive study and found out the various ways people respond to the accumulation of plaque.

Furthermore, they also classified individuals based on their response to bacterial accumulation. Plaque is a sticky, yellowish bacterial film that adheres to the teeth’ surface and is a natural occurrence. However, if the deposition of bacterial plaque is left unchecked, it can lead to gum inflammation and cause gingivitis. If gingivitis is left untreated and this bacterial laden deposition is not removed, it can progress to a destructive form of gum disease, periodontitis.

Periodontitis is a result of chronic inflammation of the gums and ultimately can lead to loose teeth and eventual teeth loss. Moreover, it can also have devastating effects on the overall health of an individual, making them susceptible to heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis, bowel disease and even cancer.

This research was also published in detail by the National Academy of Sciences and explains why some people tend to have an exaggerated response to plaque accumulation.

Researchers through this study also identified and classified a range of different inflammatory responses to plaque accumulation in the oral cavity. Continued bacterial growth on the surfaces of the teeth leads to a generation of an inflammatory response to lower the bacterial buildup and fight the infection.

Before this research, there were only two known major phenotypes of oral inflammation: strong or high clinical response and low clinical response. However, with this study, the team has now introduced a third phenotype of oral inflammation, namely – slow. These slow phenotypes of oral inflammation show a delayed but strong inflammatory response to the bacterial buildup.

The study shows for the first time that individuals with a low clinical response still demonstrated a low inflammatory response to various inflammatory signs. The study distinctively shows a new pattern of an inflammatory response to bacterial accumulation that has not been previously reported.

The co-author of the study later explained another finding of the study, which saw a distinct group of people who had slower plaque accumulation and a different microbiological composition. This newfound understanding of gum inflammation will allow for better diagnosis and help in identifying individuals who are at a higher risk of periodontitis. This variation in oral inflammatory response also provides an insight into the susceptibility of an individual to other systematic inflammatory conditions.

Moreover, the researchers also saw a novel protective response generated by the body in response to plaque accumulation which protects the oral tissues and bone during inflammation from further destruction. This protective mechanism is common in all inflammatory phenotypes that are – low, high, and slow. The body takes the help of primary fighting white blood cells called neutrophils for this. Neutrophils are the front-line white blood cells that regulate and control bacterial growth to maintain a stable internal environment called homeostasis.

A moderate and controlled amount of plaque is known to support proper oral tissues and bone health. Studies in mice also support this by showing an appropriate pathway of neutrophil migration from the blood stress to the gingival crevice located between the gum and the teeth in response to plaque.

Adequate homeostasis suggests that everything in the body is under precise control and neutrophils promote this by resisting bacterial colonization. This in turn, leads to the generation of a low-level protective response and helps the body fight unhealthy bacteria and also prevents infection. In addition, neutrophils promote proper microbiological control for healthy oral tissues and bone development.

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.