John C. Chao, D.D.S.

Research Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC

(626) 308-9104

News & Press

Gentle Brushing Is Needed For Gum Health

In addition to the removal of bacteria and plaque, gentle, brushing of the gums stimulates a momentary "adaptive" healing process that makes the gums stronger and healthier, much like what physical exercise does for the body, according to a study reported in the August 2007, issue of the Journal of Dental Research.

Bristles wielded with even gentle force tear holes in the epithelial cells that line the gums and tongue, causing a momentary rupture, researchers at the Medical College of Georgia report. Tearing enables calcium, abundant in saliva, to move into the cells, triggering internal membranes to move up and patch the hole, says Dr. Katsuya Miyake, MCG cell biologist and the paper's co-first author. But in the seconds that the repair takes, growth factors that promote growth of collagen, new cells and blood vessels leak out of injured cells.

Another co-author, Dr. Paul McNeil comments, "It's very clear that brushing your teeth is a healthy thing to do; no one questions that brushing removes bacteria and that's probably its main function," Dr. McNeil says. "But we are thinking that there might be another positive aspect of brushing. Many tissues in our bodies respond to mechanical stress by adapting and getting stronger, like muscles. We think the gums may adapt to this mechanical stress by getting thicker and healthier."

Using a special fluorescent dye that stains only torn cells, researchers were able to see "plasma membrane disruptions which lead to local cell-adaptive responses" which ultimately benefit gum health.

Researchers are naturally interested in identifying the chemical signals for this healing process for the potential in artificially duplicating this process to treat gum disease. "Viewing brushing from this novel context, as a direct physical stimulus that promotes gum health, opens up new avenues for research," Dr. McNeil says. One immediate area of interest is to identify chemical signals produced by wounded oral cavity cells that could promote gum health.

It is assumed here, that gentle, through brushing of the teeth leads to the possible benefits reported. Heavy, over-brushing with abrasive tooth brushes that can lead to irreversible gum damage is not recommended.

For the correct method for brushing and flossing your teeth, ask your dentist or dental hygienist for advice at your regular check-up appointment.

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