Tigard dental

New Study Examines the History of Gum Disease

The advances that have occurred in dentistry over even the last 10 years make it possible for Dr. Williams to provide exceptional care to our Tigard dental patients. From digital scans that provide a 3D image of a patient’s mouth to advances in dental implants and orthodontics, dentistry has come a long way in providing patients the kind of treatments needed to ensure they continue to enjoy a great looking smile for a lifetime.

Of course, imagine what it must have been like to live in the Middle Ages, long before even the toothbrush had been invented. Back in Medieval times, toothaches where blamed on tiny, invisible worms that would burrow into the teeth of afflicted patients, if not for more supernatural reasons. With this type clear scientific reasoning behind dental medicine it’s no wonder that tooth loss was a common problem for the men and women who lived at that time.

However, it’s not just how we take care of our teeth and gums that have changed over the last 1,000 years, the very bacteria in our mouths have changed as well, according to the results of a new study. In fact, researchers now believe that some people may have been more predisposed to developing tooth decay and gum disease, thanks in part to the types of bacteria that inhabited their mouths.

Ancient Bacteria Tells an Interesting Story

Researchers from the Danish Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research began their study by collecting dental plaque samples from the skeletal remains of 21 men who lived in the village of Tjærby between the years of 1100 to 1450 CE. Researchers selected these men for the study because the male immune system typically exhibits a stronger inflammatory response, making it easier for researchers to identify proteins linked to causing inflammation.

As you might expect from a group of Medieval villagers, the oral health of the men tested was pretty poor. All of the men showed signs of severe gum disease, along with at least some minor cavities. Most of the men had lost at least one or more teeth before the time of their deaths.

The oral bacteria that remained on the men’s teeth preserved thousands of proteins from their bodies, the foods they ate and the bacteria that lived in their mouths at the time. Using a variety of testing techniques, researchers were able to identify over 3,700 different types of proteins in the collected samples. While some came from food, most came from the men’s bodies.

Roughly 50 identified proteins came from blood plasma, which suggested that the men suffered from bleeding gums, a hallmark sign of gum disease. However, the majority of the proteins – between 85 to 95 percent – where the product of bacteria from the microbiome. Researchers found about 220 different species in all.

Not All Mouths Are Created Equal

While all of the men showed some signs of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss, the majority of the protein samples collected from 16 of the men came from several types of bacteria linked to a higher risk of gum disease and tooth decay. It’s not surprising then that nearly half of the group (7 out of the 16) showed signs of advanced tooth decay.

The second group of men showed just one case of severe gum disease. Researchers say the proteins found in the dental plaque of those men’s indicated a tendency towards good health when compared to the other men. Those proteins – mostly from harmless types of bacteria such as Streptococcus sanguinis – tend to occupy most of the space of a typical microbiome by squeezing out the spaced needed for more harmful bacteria – such as Streptococcus mutans, a known cause of gum disease – from taking root. This altered dynamic may help to explain why the second group of men enjoy better oral health when compared to their neighbors.

So what does all of this mean?

Well, it further indicates what research has been showing scientists regarding the human mouth and how it deals with disease, which all leads to one unfair fact – some people are just more genetically predisposed to developing gum disease and tooth decay than others. This is why some people who rarely brush and never floss can receive a cavity-free dental visit, while those who brush and floss like clockwork still have to deal with decay.

While this may seem frustrating enough to want and throw your toothbrush in the trash, the opposite is actually true. Because each person’s oral health can vary so significantly despite their oral hygiene habits, it’s more important than ever that patients receive regular Tigard dental care.

Regular exams provides Dr. Williams with the chance to spot the early signs of gum disease and tooth decay before the condition can become worse. If you’re someone who brushes regularly, you probably think you’re safe from the effects of decay. However, these types of frequent exams give you the information needed to know the real state of your current oral health.

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