Microbes in the News: Immune responses in Periodontal Disease

Researchers identify immune culprits linked to inflammation and bone loss in gum disease

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Vicki Contie and Dr. Catherine Evans




Summary: Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research have discovered the reason behind inflammation in periodontitis in a joint study between mice and humans. An unhealthy oral microbiome may trigger T helper 17 cells to begin an immune and inflammatory response, even if proper oral care is being undertaken. Mice with knocked out Th17 genes were compared to a selection of patients who also were missing the gene. They found a lack of periodontitis in those missing the Th17 cells when compared with those in their age bracket.

Connections: We have not covered the immune system, but we have spoken about how important microbes are. These researchers are suggesting that without the proper diversity in an individual’s oral microbiome, other diseases can arise. We’ve talked about how plaque occurs from biofilm buildup, however there are good things in the mouth that work to keep inflammation and other diseases from occurring. This is just another example of how microbes really run the world.

Critical Analysis: This news release was very interesting because it paints the oral microbiome as the good-guy in this situation, even though we often think of it as the enemy. I felt the story was scientifically accurate because they explained how the researchers came to the conclusion they did and how the study was set up. The article was written in such a way as to describe what the researchers did in case anyone wanted to question their methods. I felt the article was well written, but it may be harder for individual’s without scientific backgrounds to understand. It was easier to read than a journal article, but harder to read than the average newspaper. This article did a good job communicating to the people it was aimed at: dental professionals.

Question: How does mouthwash and brushing your teeth affect an individual’s oral microbiome?

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