A dental care study at the University of Michigan has determined that the same bacteria that causes a serious form of gum disease can also trigger bone-destroying cells in the jaw.
The research linked the bacteria called NI1060 to both periodontitis and to cellular activity that leads the protein Nod1 to cause bone decay. By itself, Nod1 normally fights bacteria in the body.
The study, which was published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe, was supported in part by a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the university's Cancer Center.
"Nod1 is a part of our protective mechanisms against bacterial infection. It helps us to fight infection by recruiting neutrophils, blood cells that act as bacterial killers," said Noahiro Inohara, Ph.D., a research associate professor at the UM Health System. "However, in the case of periodontitis, accumulation of NI1060 stimulates Nod1 to trigger neutrophils and osteoclasts, which are cells that destroy bone in the oral cavity."
Inohara's co-author on the study, Yizu Jiao, Ph.D., said it has long been known that bacteria is responsible for causing gum disease, but the identification of NI1060 is a major breakthrough.
Findings will further dental care
The study also involved researchers from the university's School of Dentistry. William Giannobile, D.M.S., who chairs the UM Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine, said a deeper understanding of what causes gum disease to develop will help dental practitioners tailor treatments for their patients.
He said the findings show the process by which bacteria that normally resides in the oral cavity not only causes gum disease but how patients may respond to the germ. Typically, periodontitis develops when inflammation has proceeded to the point that connective tissue and the bone that support the teeth are affected.
Although gum disease can develop in some cases as early as the teen years, it's usually a condition that is associated with aging. Most people don't have gum problems until they're past age 40, and it tends to worsen as people get older. While the teeth may remain healthy, if the gums aren't strong enough to support them, tooth loss can occur, reported the American Dental Association.
For people who can't afford the high cost of dental insurance, delaying visits to the dentist may keep them from having gum disease treated in the early stages. Dental health plans are more reasonably priced and allow consumers to obtain care for their teeth and gums at discounted prices.
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