Researchers develop topical gel that fights gum disease

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A new gel may be able to relieve and treat the symptoms of gum disease. Anna Efetova/Getty Images
  • Nearly half of all adults age 30 or older have gum disease.
  • Researchers at NYU College of Dentistry have developed a topical gel to help treat and prevent periodontal (gum) disease.
  • In experiments with mice, the gel reduced inflammation and bone loss by 50%.
  • Scientists hope to bring the product to market as a gel and an oral strip that people can use at home.

Gum disease – clinically known as periodontal disease or periodontitis — almost affects half of all adults aged 30 or over.

Common treatments for periodontal disease include scalingwhere a dentist cleans teeth below the surface of the gums, antibiotics and surgical options.

Now, researchers at NYU College of Dentistry have developed a less invasive treatment option for gum disease in a topical gel.

This study has just been published in the journal Cell reports.

When you breathe, talk, and eat, bacteria and food particles get into your mouth and can cling to your teeth. Brushing and flossing regularly helps eliminate them so they don’t cause any health problems.

If left uncleaned, these bacteria and food particles remain on your teeth, forming a sticky white substance called plaque. Not removed by regular brushing or annual dental cleanings, plaque can harden into darker-looking tartar – a substance on the teeth that regular brushing cannot remove.

The buildup of plaque and tartar on your teeth can irritate your gums and lead to infection. Symptoms of gum disease include:

Research also links gum disease to other conditions, including an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, erectile dysfunctionand poor cognitive function. And a 2008 study linked periodontal disease to an increased risk of certain cancers at men’s.

Adopting good oral hygiene habits is the best way to prevent gum disease. However, some people are more prone to periodontitis, such as smokers. Some people are genetically more at risk to develop gum disease. And some drugs, like steroids and oral contraceptivesare risk factors for periodontal disease.

In order to completely remove plaque and tartar buildup causing gum disease, a dentist normally performs deep dental cleaning techniques, including scaling and root planing. These processes allow the dentist to remove plaque and tartar from all surfaces of the teeth, including below the gum line.

If gum disease does not improve with scaling, a dentist may move on to surgical options, including flap surgery, tissue and/or bone grafting, and tissue regeneration.

“There has been limited progress in the treatment of periodontal disease over the past 40 years,” explained Dr. Yuqi Guoresearch associate in the Department of Molecular Pathobiology at NYU Dentistry and co-first author of this study.

“Root surface debridement is the most common treatment, which is painful and often requires multiple dental office visits. Our non-invasive treatment for gum disease aims to provide people with an at-home alternative to prevent or treat gum disease. »
— Dr. Yuqi Guo

According to Dr. Guo, the topical gel developed by the research team works by targeting and blocking the receptor of succinate — a natural molecule produced during metabolism.

“The level of succinate increased in patients with periodontitis and our previous study discovered that elevation of succinate leads to activation of the succinate receptor to stimulate inflammation and bone loss,” Dr. Guo said. Medical News Today. “These findings have made the succinate receptor an attractive target for fighting inflammation and bone loss – and potentially stopping gum disease in its tracks.”

For the study, Dr. Guo and his team administered the gel compound topically to human gum cells in a lab. Scientists reported that the compound reduced inflammation and the processes leading to bone loss.

The researchers also applied the gel topically to the gums of mice with gum disease. They observed a reduction in local and systemic gum inflammation, as well as bone loss, within days.

“When the gel was applied to the gums of mice with gum disease every other day for four weeks, bone loss was reduced (by) 50%,” Dr. Guo added. “The mice treated with the gel also showed significantly less inflammation and significant changes in the bacterial composition of their mouths.”

Dr. Guo said the research team’s next steps for the topical gel are to test its effectiveness in a non-human primate model and determine its safety through toxicity testing.

“Our long-term goal is to develop both gel formulations and oral strips that can be used at home by people with or at risk of gum disease, as well as a stronger, slow-release formulation than dentists can apply on pockets that form in the gums during gum disease,” she continued. “Ultimately, we want to present an easy-to-apply home treatment for human patients, as well as our fuzzy friends who are also bothered by gum problems.”

DTM also spoke with Dr. Sally J. Cramperiodontist in Washington, DC, and spokesperson for the American Dental Association, about this study.

“It’s exciting, but preliminary research [b]as it is based on studies and findings in cell cultures and animal models and has not yet been tested in human subjects, both healthy – to test safety – and those with periodontal disease – to test the effectiveness.
— Dr. Sally J. Cram

“Ultimately, there should be randomized clinical trials of the investigational drug in human subjects with periodontal disease showing that the drug has a positive effect on health outcomes and has no adverse effects,” continued the Dr Cram. “Comparisons with conventional periodontal treatment would also be useful in determining the place of this therapy in the treatment of gum disease,” added Dr. Cram.

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