Gingivitis, which may affect more than one-half of the U.S. adult population, is a condition commonly attributed to lapses in simple oral hygiene habits. However, a new study shows that development and reversal of gingivitis at the molecular level is apparently much more complicated than its causes might indicate.
Research conducted jointly by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Procter & Gamble (P&G) Oral Care has found that more than 9,000 genes nearly 30 percent of the genes found in the human body are expressed differently during the onset and healing process associated with gingivitis. Biological pathways associated with activation of the immune system were found to be the major pathways being activated and critical to controlling the body's reaction to plaque build-up on the teeth. Additionally, other gene expression pathways activated during plaque overgrowth include those involved in wound healing, neural processes and skin turnover.
Results of the study are published today in the December 2009 edition of the Journal of Periodontology. This study is the first to successfully identify gene expression and biological pathways involved with the onset and healing process of gingivitis.
Gingivitis is characterized by gums that are red, swollen and tender and that bleed easily during brushing and flossing. If untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, which has been studied extensively for its possible relation to heart disease, diabetes and pre-term birth. Researchers said that understanding how gingivitis develops and resolves on a molecular level can possibly provide critical insights into gum disease prevention, as well as new treatments.
"The study's findings demonstrate that clinical symptoms of gingivitis reflect complicated changes in cellular and molecular processes within the body," said Steven Offenbacher, D.D.S., Ph.D., the study's lead author and director of the UNC School of
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