Soft gums are more prone to inflammation

soft gums gingiva fibroblasts
Photo: batuhantoker 123rf

Japanese researchers have discovered that softer gums hinder the development of gingiva fibroblasts—the cells that help produce the fibres that hold our teeth in place.

The tissue area that surrounds our teeth is known as the gingiva, and healthy teeth will nestle firmly into the gums thanks to the many gingival fibres that connect the tooth to the gingiva. The gingiva is home to fibroblasts—cells that contribute to the formation of connective tissue. 

A group of scientists from Tohoku University have discovered that the gingiva stiffness influences the properties of gingival fibroblasts, which in turn affects whether inflammation is likely to occur and make gingival fibers difficult to form.

Their findings are published in Scientific Reports.

“We discovered that soft gingiva results in inflammation and hinders the development of gingival fibres,” A/Professor Masahiro Yamada said.

It has long been known that individuals with thick or stiff gingiva are less susceptible to gingival recessions. This is where the gingiva begins to recede and expose a tooth’s root. Many factors can lead to gingival recession, such as gum disease, over-brushing, and chewing tobacco. But this is the first time that gingival stiffness has been attributed to biological reactions.

Although fibroblasts play an important role in the maintenance, repair and healing of the gingiva, they also produce various inflammatory and tissue-degrading biomolecules which degrade the gingival fibres. In addition, fibroblasts are associated with immune responses to pathogens.

The researchers created an artificial culture environment that simulated soft or hard gingiva and cultured human gingival fibroblasts on them. They discovered that hard gingiva-simulated stiffness activated an intracellular anti-inflammatory system in the gingival fibroblasts that prevented inflammation. Yet, soft gingiva-simulated stiffness suppressed the fibroblastic anti-inflammatory system. This increased the likelihood of inflammation and resulted in less collagen synthesis.

“Our research is the first to demonstrate the biological mechanisms at play in regard to a patient’s gingival properties,” Dr Yamada said.

“The results are expected to accelerate the development of advanced biomaterials to control local inflammation or microdevices that simulate the microenvironment of inflammatory conditions.”

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