Why Does Gum Disease Become More Prevalent With Age?

A new research study, carried out by the University of London in collaboration with American research groups, has gone a little way towards explaining why gum disease is more likely to be found in older people. The study was recently published in Nature, and found that as we age, the production of a chemical called Del-1 gradually falls. It is hoped that gaining a better understanding about this chemical could lead to the development of alternative and hopefully more effective methods of treating and preventing gum disease.

The latest research is showing a link between low levels of the chemical Del-1 and an increased likelihood of developing gum disease.

This latest research looked at gum disease in groups of older and younger mice, and found that older mice suffering from gum disease were more likely to have lower levels of Del-1. In mice with high levels of Del-1, the immune system is prevented from overreacting and white blood cells were prevented from attaching themselves to and attacking gum tissue. Mice completely lacking in this chemical were found to have severe gum disease as well as significant bone loss, and were more likely to have elevated levels of white blood cells in their gum tissue.

Treating mice with Del-1 was found to reduce the level of gum disease and bone loss, as well as reduce the levels of white blood cells. It is hoped that this research could provide the basis for a new type of treatment. According to Dr. Mike Curtis, Professor of Microbiology at the University of London and lead on the microbiological studies, these findings go some way towards understanding the mechanisms that affect us Del-1 as we age, and this is important in helping develop an effective treatment.

Gum disease is a common condition that affects around three quarters of the North American population in some form or another. However recent research by the Centers for Disease Control suggests these figures may have been underestimated by up to 50%, as in its early stages it is easy to miss. The condition is caused by the immune response to bacteria in the mouth. The most advanced form of the disease is chronic periodontitis, and this is a condition that develops slowly over time; for this reason it tends to be more prevalent amongst older adults.

Periodontal disease is typically diagnosed through a visual assessment combined with periodontal probing during your dental visit. Further tests can be carried out to give biological and genetic information which may help tailor the treatment more accurately to the patient’s needs, and obviously identifying a protein deficiency could help.



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