Scientists and dentists alike have known for several years that gum disease is caused by bacteria, but they’ve only just very, very recently been able to pinpoint exactly which type of bacteria is the culprit.
However, this study also discovered another interesting fact about this bacterium (called NI1060); not only does it cause gum disease, it also turns a protective protein in the mouth into a traitor. The protein will actually produce bone-destroying cells that attacks the jawbone. Normally, this protein fights harmful bacteria in the mouth, but not when NI1060 is present.
“Nod1 [the protein] 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,” Naohiro Inohara, research associate professor at the U-M Health System and member of research team, said. “It also removes harmful bacteria during infection. 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.”
William Giannobile, professor of dentistry at the U-M Health System, said, “The findings from this study underscore the connection between beneficial and harmful bacteria that normally reside in the oral cavity, how a harmful bacterium causes the disease, and how an at-risk patient might respond to such bacteria.”
He went on to say that this could lead to more personalized therapy and treatments for patients diagnosed with gum disease.
The more we learn about gum disease, the more serious the disease becomes. It can affect your overall health, heart health, diabetes, and now it seems that the bacteria involved attacks the jawbone as well. These findings make it all the more important to keep your regular, routine dental check-ups and make sure you always voice any concerns, no matter how minor they may seem, to your dentist.