Dr Mark O'Donnell B.D.S
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A new way to treat gum disease?
Researchers are refining a new way to treat periodontal (gum) disease without antibiotics, according to a study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Symptoms of periodontal disease include:
• inflamed and bleeding gums;
• gums that pull away from the teeth; and,
• damage to the connective tissue and bone that hold teeth in the jaw.
These symptoms are caused by the body’s response to certain bacteria. Standard treatment for periodontal disease often includes antibiotics, to try to reduce the numbers of these bacteria.
Instead of destroying the bacteria, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh are trying to change the way that the body’s immune system reacts. They have developed a paste-like delivery system, which goes between the gums and the teeth. It slowly releases CCL22, a protein that attracts regulatory T cells. These T cells ‘call off’ the body’s defences, which are causing the inflammation, bleeding and other symptoms.
So far, the researchers have only tested this in mice and dogs. The CCL22 treatment led to:
• reduced inflammation;
• reduced bleeding of the gums; and,
• lower rates of bone loss.
The group is planning to test the treatment in people in the future.
To some elderly people, dental visits ‘not worth it’
A study published in the journal BMC Oral Health shows that some common barriers to dental care for older people may be more complicated than they seem.
Researchers from the Netherlands interviewed 51 older people between 2009 and 2012. All were in assisted-living facilities, some full-time, others visiting during the day.
The researchers found that most older people see taking care of their teeth and gums as something that helps them to feel normal and independent. However, they didn’t look at visiting the dentist in the same way. Those who were more frail and less independent were much more likely to abandon regular dental visits, although they did continue their oral hygiene routines.
Many of the people with full or partial dentures did not visit a dentist anymore. However, about half of those who had stopped going to the dentist also complained about oral problems, including poorly fitting dentures, loose teeth or painful spots in the mouth.
There were three main reasons why people no longer visited the dentist:
• They didn’t believe that going to the dentist would do anything, e.g., those with dentures assumed that they were supposed to be uncomfortable.
• They thought their oral health was less important now, because they were old and frail.
• They had a limited amount of energy, and were choosing not to use some of it for a dental visit.
Some people also mentioned other barriers, including:
• problems holding a toothbrush or using floss;
• problems with walking;
• confusion; and,
• lack of social support.
Cost is a commonly recognised barrier to dental care. However, the people in this study said they would not visit a free dental clinic, even though most had some form of dental discomfort.
Gum disease linked with asthma risk
People with gum disease may be more likely to have asthma, according to a Brazilian study published in The Journal of Periodontology.
The study compared people with asthma to people without it. It included 220 adults, all of whom were examined for signs of gum disease. People with gum disease were five times as likely to have asthma as people who had healthy gums.
The researchers note that inflammation of the gums, as seen in gum disease, could affect asthma, which involves lung inflammation. However, this study does not show that asthma causes gum disease, or that gum disease leads to asthma.
Other studies have found that people taking inhaled asthma medicines may be at greater risk for periodontal disease. The studies suggest that the inhaled medicines affect the mouth.