New Research Provides Insight into Why Gum Disease Is More Common As We Age

Published:April 17th, 2012

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New studies have been conducted by Queen Mary, University of London who collaborated with the several research groups in the United States, and provide an interesting insight as to why gum disease is more common in older people. According to the study, as we age there is a drop in the levels of a chemical called Del-1, and this is associated with worsening gum health. Researchers think that finding out more about this chemical and how it affects the body’s immune system could improve the treatment of gum disease, and could help prevent this serious condition.

The research which has been published in Nature Immunology, looked at gum disease in old and young mice, and found an increase in the disease in older animals followed a drop in levels of Del-1. This particular protein is known to act on the immune system, and stops white blood cells from attacking and sticking to mouth tissue. Researchers found mice without this chemical had severe gum disease, and were more likely to suffer from bone loss. These mice also had higher levels of white blood cells than normal in their gum tissue. When the mice were treated with the chemical Del-1 the white blood cell levels dropped, the gum disease improved, and there was less chance of bone loss. Researchers are hopeful that these findings could form the basis for treatment or prevention of gum disease.

What is gum disease?
Gum disease is a serious condition, and more people suffer from it as they age. The early stages of gum disease are called gingivitis and are characterised by gums which look a little red and swollen, and which often bleed when brushed. If the disease progresses then it becomes periodontitis, and can lead to bone loss in the jaw, and of course the loss of teeth. It’s estimated about 20% of the population in the UK are affected by this condition at any one time, and it occurs due to the inflammation created by plaque bacteria which grow in the mouth.

How can you prevent gum disease?
Although gum disease may become more prevalent as we age, this doesn’t mean everyone has to develop this condition, as looking after your teeth and having regular dental checkups and professional cleanings will help enormously. This is because your dentist will be able to spot any early signs of gum disease, and will be able to take action to ensure it doesn’t progress any further. Depending on the severity of the condition this may involve simply paying more attention to your daily oral health, or you might need to have your gums deep cleaned to remove the infection.

Having your teeth cleaned professionally has been proven to be one of the best ways of helping to prevent this disease. This is because it is created by plaque causing inflammation. Plaque creates a film over the teeth during the course of the day, and if it isn’t removed it quickly hardens into tartar or calculus which can only be removed by professional cleaning. If the tartar is allowed to build up then it causes inflammation in the gum tissues, so having it removed regularly helps prevent this from happening.

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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