The purpose of this study was to characterize histologically the gingival lesion associated with suppuration in advanced periodontitis. Thirty-three bleeding, suppurating (S) and 23 bleeding, nonsuppurating (NS) interproximal biopsies were obtained from nine patients and processed for light microscopy. Pocket depths (mean +/- SD) were 6.7 +/- 1.6 mm (S) and 5.4 +/- 2.2 mm (NS). Six-micron serial sections were stained with (1) hematoxylin/eosin and (2) van Gieson. Quantitative cell types were determined by a grid intersection counting technique at x 1000. Volumetric analysis of collagen-poor (inflammation) areas was conducted using a computer biometric system that revealed three histologic patterns: Type I sites showed mild to moderate inflammation (less than 50% infiltrate, S = 15, NS = 20); Type II sites showed intense inflammation (greater than 50% infiltrate, S = 17, NS = 3); and only one (S) site had a large connective tissue abscess (Type III). The mean percentage of collagen-poor area was significantly larger in suppurating (42.1 +/- 25.5%) versus nonsuppurating (27.7 +/- 20.4%) sites (P = 0.02). In both S and NS sites, plasma cells (means = 66%) and lymphocytes (means = 27%) predominated in the inflammatory infiltrates. Histologically, suppuration appeared to be associated with increased gingival inflammation and a slight increase in connective tissue neutrophils.
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