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New research from the NIH shows how bacteria can trigger an immune reaction that causes gum disease. Can control of this immune cell called “T helper 17” be the big breakthrough in the battle against gum disease?

An unhealthy balance of bacteria in the mouth has long been known to trigger inflammation in periodontal disease. Studies have suggested that an abnormal immune response of Th17 is critical in this process.
Researchers found that Th17 cells were much more prevalent in gum tissue of People with periodontitis than in healthy individuals. They introduced antibiotics which suppressed the Th17 cells in gum tissue. These results suggest that an unhealthy balance of oral bacteria can cause a buildup of Th17 cells. In a subsequent test, researchers studied individuals with reduced Th17 cells due to a gene defect and found that this group were less susceptible to gum disease and had less inflammation and bone loss than a control group.
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