Treating gum disease is one of the most important aspects of professional dental care for many people. Left to its own devices, gingival infection slowly destroys your gums and the underlying jawbone structure that support your teeth. Patients who wait to seek treatment often lose one or more teeth for their hesitation, and others might allow the germs from their mouths to enter their bodies through the diseased tissues. The red, swollen gums that mark gum disease’s presence are a result of your immune system’s inflammatory response. By understanding why and how it happens, researchers believe they may have found a way to help save your gums by checking your immune system and telling it to stand down.
Why Your Gums Swell
If you’re talking about gum inflammation, you can’t have a full discussion without mentioning the bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis. As a major contributor to dental plaque (the bacteria-laden biofilm that clings to your teeth now and then), P. gingivalis likes to hang around close to your gum line. To survive, they’ve learned to evade your immune system, which uses inflammation as a tool to drive out harmful microbes before they cause an infection. Your body still registers their presence, though, and as it hunts P. gingivalis unsuccessfully, the chronic presence of inflammation can severely damage your gums.
Maybe We Can Manipulate Inflammation, Too
In a study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, researchers discovered that in patients with inflammatory gum disease, there’s a significant lack in a subset of immune cells called regulatory T-cells. They normally tell attacking inflammatory cells to stand down; in their absence, your immune system mounts an unchecked, overly-aggressive response to oral bacteria. The research team sought to observe what would happen if they introduced regulatory T-cells to inflamed gum tissues, supposing they would help bring the swelling under control. By applying a signaling protein designed to call T-cells between the teeth and gums of animals with gum disease, the scientists noted marked improvement in the animals’ periodontal health, even the though the amount of bacteria remained the same. The separation between gums and teeth (periodontal pockets) was reduced, as well as instances of bleeding, the level of inflammation, and rates of bone loss (popular measures for the severity of gum disease).
About Your Southlake Dentists:
As a native Texan, Dr. Gregory Wright opened his private practice in Southlake, TX in 1992. He and Dr. Victoria Heron are happily accepting new patients from Southlake, Grapevine, Keller, Trophy Club, Colleyville, and all surrounding communities. To schedule an appointment, call our office today at (817) 481-7999.