The relation between oral and overall health has long been established. Poor oral health has a significant impact on the overall health of any individual. Similarly, systemic diseases can also present themselves by having oral complications and symptoms. Our overall health and oral health are intimately related. It is due to this relation that dental professionals worldwide stress so much on the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.

A recent study conducted at the University of Washington supports these past findings by revealing previously unknown aspects of gingivitis and how the body responds to it. This study comprehensively studies the way individuals react to the deposition of bacterial plaque in the oral cavity.

Based on the different responses to plaque accumulation, researchers were able to identify and classify the body’s response. Plaque is defined as a sticky, yellowish bacterial film that adheres to the surface of the teeth and acts as a haven for disease-causing bacteria. Uncontrolled plaque deposition leads to gum diseases like gingivitis. Gingivitis is a milder form of gum disease and can be easily treated by a dental professional. However, if left untreated, the disease progresses to its destructive form known as periodontitis. Periodontitis leads to bleeding from gums, loose teeth and eventual tooth loss. It can further go and even infect the surrounding jawbone, which is irreversible. Moreover, this puts the body in a state of chronic inflammation that predisposes an individual to systemic complications like heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis, bowel disease and even cancer.

The National Academy of Sciences also published this paper, which details why some people tend to have a more severe response to plaque accumulation. The study also identifies and classifies a range of different inflammatory responses to plaque accumulation. Continued accumulation of bacterial plaque is seen to generate an inflammatory response which reduces the bacterial build-up and also fights the infection.

The two known major phenotypes of oral inflammation are – strong or high clinical response and low clinical response. This study, however, introduces a third phenotype of oral inflammation – slow. The slow phenotype shows a delayed and strong inflammatory response to the bacterial build-up.

The study for the first time details that individuals with a low clinical response still demonstrate a low inflammatory response to various inflammatory signals by showing a new pattern of an inflammatory response to bacterial accumulation.

The co-author of the study later also explains how a distinct group of people who had slower plaque accumulation as well as a different microbiological composition were also noticed. These findings will form a basis for better diagnosis and identify people at a higher risk of periodontitis. In addition, it also tells us about the susceptibility of an individual to other systematic inflammatory conditions.

Moreover, the study also shows a unique protective response generated by the body in response to plaque accumulation which mechanism common is for all inflammatory phenotypes that are – low, high, and slow. The body, with the help of primary fighting white blood cells called neutrophils, regulate and control bacterial growth to maintain a stable internal environment of the body – homeostasis.

Some amount of plaque is known to contribute towards proper oral tissues and bone health. Studies in mice show a specific pathway by which neutrophils migrate from the bloodstream to the gingival crevice.

Healthy homeostasis means that everything in the body is alright. Neutrophils also promote this by resisting bacterial colonization and infection. This generates a low-level protective response and helps the body fight unhealthy bacteria. In addition, neutrophils also contribute towards adequate healthy oral tissues and bone.

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.