Most of us are no stranger to mouth injuries. Whether it’s a canker sore, a bitten tongue or cheek, or even a burnt tongue from hot coffee, our mouths are subject to some pretty harsh conditions at times. But what you may also have noticed is that mouth injuries of any kind seem to heal a lot faster than injuries elsewhere on the body. Have you ever wondered why they heal so quickly? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, a team of researchers from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, asked the same question, and what they found may surprise you.
The institute’s study involved 30 individuals in good health who agreed to be injured for the project. Researchers took two one-eighth-inch punches of skin from each subject. One punch came from the inner cheek (inside the mouth) and the other from the underside of the subject’s arm. Researchers then monitored the healing process of each injury and found that, as hypothesized, the injuries in the mouth healed much quicker – within a few days – while the injuries on the underarms took upwards of two weeks to heal. But why?
Well, researchers theorize that several conditions are at play when it comes to wound healing. For starters, with oral wounds they noted that the body’s natural wound-repair genes kick into action in the mouth much faster than outside the mouth. They also found that the oral bacteria present in the mouth helped reduce inflammation of the wound, helping it to heal faster.
Furthermore, two proteins called “master healing proteins” are present in the mouth, also ushering along the healing process. The researchers plan to use this information to develop a means for external wounds to heal faster, which could be especially beneficial for higher-risk groups like the elderly and those with illnesses that slow healing, such as diabetes.
This study not only sheds some light on the inner workings of the body, but it also goes to show us yet again why keeping the mouth clean and healthy is a good idea. After all, the healthier the mouth, the more good bacteria are present to help reduce that inflammation. Inflammation has been shown time and time again to cause or contribute negatively to serious problems like gum disease, heart disease, diabetes, heart problems and even cancer.
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