The relationship of gingival crevicular fluid short chain carboxylic acid concentration to gingival inflammation

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Short-chain carboxylic acids (SCCA; C≤5; e.g., lactic acid, propionic acid, butyric acid) are metabolic by-products of bacterial metabolism which accumulate in the gingival crevice, and exhibit significant biological activity, including the ability to alter gene expression. It has been hypothesized that among the activities of SCCAs are their ability to contribute to gingival inflammation. This concept complements the notion that specific periodontal pathogens are the causative agents of gingival inflammation. To begin testing these 2 hypotheses, we examined the relationship between SCCA concentrations, specific putative periodontal pathogens, and gingival inflammation in medically healthy periodontally diseased subjects. We reasoned that if SCCAs and/or specific periodontal pathogens were causative gingival inflammatory agents, gingival inflammation should increase with increasing concentration of the inflammatory mediator. We also recognized that other clinical variables needed to be controlled for, and an objective quantitative assessment of gingival inflammation used. To accomplish these tasks, sites within subjects were stratified by location and pocket depth, and the following quantified: bacterial presence; SCCA concentration; and gingival inflammation. The results indicated that gingival inflammation directly and significantly correlated with SCCA concentrations in the maxillary and mandibular molars, incisors and canines (all r s≥0.47; all p≤0.015; too few bicuspids were available for complete analysis). The relationship between gingival inflammation and SCCA concentration was best described by a natural log relationship. Gingival inflammation did not, however, correlate positively with either the total number of specific putative periodontal pathogens, or the sum of subsets of these pathogens (-0.31≤ r≤ 0.39; 0.08≤p ≤0.75) for any of the locations. Finally, the SCCA concentration did not correlate with the level of individual or groups of pathogens. These data, together with historical work and other preliminary data, support the hypothesis that SCCA, rather than specific putative periodontal pathogens, may be a causative agent in gingival inflammation. This work may, in part, begin to explain the apparent lack of a direct relationship between current gingival inflammation and the prediction of bacterially mediated periodontal attachment loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)743-749
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of clinical periodontology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1996


  • Butyrate
  • Gingival inflammation
  • Propionate
  • Short chain carboxylic acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Periodontics


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