Approximately 65 million adults in the U.S. suffer from either gingivitis or periodontitis, the respective early and late stages of gum disease, and they fall into one of two camps – chronic, meaning they suffer from a slow progression of the disease; and aggressive, meaning the infection as started to advance more rapidly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For health experts trying to grasp the severity of a patient’s gum disease, trying to determine which camp they fall into is made difficult due to the symptoms of the disease largely overlapping. Trying to classify the two different types of gum disease according to the published criteria becomes difficult due to the similar nature of the different stages. As a result, by the time many patients with an aggressive case of periodontitis receive a correct diagnosis, irreversible damage has already occurred.
Inspired by biologists who study cancer, researchers from Columbia University’s School of Dental Medicine have started working on a system to classify periodontal disease based on gene expression of the infected gum tissue. If successful, this new means of testing could finally help dentists and other oral health professionals diagnosis patient gum disease before it has time to progress.
New Means of Testing
Under their new means of testing, researchers found the colonization of specific bacteria were linked more often to severe forms of gum disease. By identifying this bacteria early on, researchers hope oral health professionals will be able to determine the nature of a patient’s gum disease without relying solely on symptoms, which are difficult to differentiate when dealing with chronic or aggressive infections.
Researchers examined 120 patients suffering from periodontal disease, and those suffering from a chronic case of the disease showed fewer traces of the specific bacteria that colonizes around the tooth and helps to speed up the tooth decay and tooth loss process. Patients with a chronic infection also exhibited different types of antibodies in the gums when compared to patients with an aggressive infection.
If these finds are confirmed through further study, it would offer health experts an ideal form of classification, one founded on biology that can help explain why the infection can progress so rapidly in some, while taking 30 to 40 years longer to reach that same point in others.
More study is need on the bacteria isolated by researchers in order to validate these finding, which means science is still years away from creating a simple test that could be administered chair-side at the dentist’s office.
Preventing Gum Disease
The real tragedy behind gum disease is how easily preventable the damage the disease causes is. By brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day, patients can greatly reduce their risk of developing gum disease long before it can progress to either chronic or aggressive versions.
Of course, brushing and flossing alone isn’t quite enough to lower the risk of gum disease entirely. Patients still need to schedule regular checkup and cleanings with Dr. Beck to ensure the best oral health possible. Checkups provide Dr. Beck a chance to examine patients’ oral health and spot any early signs of gum disease before it has the chance to progress, while cleanings allow our staff and doctors at South Waterfront Dental,your SW Portland dentists of choice, to remove built up plaque – the primary cause of gum disease – from areas of the mouth a toothbrush just cannot reach.