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Researchers at the University of Michigan have found that certain antibodies that are present in people with good oral health could hold the key to allowing dentists to predict a patient's probable response to periodontal (gum) disease treatments.
The antibody, HtpG, which is made by the important periodontal disease pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis, could also potentially be used as a vaccine, according to Charles Shelburne, assistant research scientist at the university's School of Dentistry.
Unusually, the research team found much higher counts of the antibodies in people with healthy teeth and gums than in those with periodontal disease - usually, antibodies are elevated in people with illnesses as it helps them to fight it off.
The discovered that not only were the HtpG antibodies present in higher amounts in people with healthier gums, but those patients also responded better to periodontal treatment.
Dennis Lopatin, principal investigator and senior associate dean of the School of Dentistry, said that although patients with periodontal disease do have high amounts of antibodies, they are not of the right type to protect them.
"It's like being vaccinated against the wrong strain of the flu," he said. "We're in a position now where we have a potential tool that gives insight as to how the patient will respond to treatment."
Gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss, but recent research shows it can also contribute to illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and pneumonia.
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