When parasitic bacteria build up below the gum line, it can result in gum disease. Gum disease, also called periodontal disease or periodontitis, damages gums, teeth and bones and if left untreated, leads to a more severe immune reaction that can damage tissues. Fortunately, University of Louisville researchers now have a better understanding of how bacteria build up and colonize beneath the gum line and plan to use that knowledge to halt gum disease.
Oral bacteria and gum disease
A type of oral bacteria strongly tied to periodontitis is called Porphyromonas gingivalis, or P. gingivalis. This type of bacteria contributes to some of the negative effects of gum disease. However, P. gingivalis requires the presence of a second oral bacterium to colonize below the gum line and that bacterium, called Streptococcus gordonii, is not harmful on its own. S. gordonii is present in oral tissues from infancy and usually has well-established colonies below the gum line. When the harmful bacteria P. gingivalis occurs in the mouth, it begins by building up on top of the S. gordonii bacteria as a parasitic organism.
Promising results from research
Fortunately, in the research study from the University of Louisville, scientists discovered that some kinds of peptides (organic chemicals similar to but smaller than proteins) prevent the interaction between P. gingivalis and S. gordonii. By applying a compound of the peptides to the teeth of animals, the researchers found that there was noticeably lower colonization by P. gingivalis along with a reduced amount of bone loss associated with the parasitic organism. Three of the 40 compounds made from the peptides to target the interaction between P. gingivalis and S. gordonii showed promising results but require additional research before use as an effective oral treatment.
The bigger picture
Although such a targeted treatment of specific bacteria may not effectively treat gum disease in everyone, it could be helpful for patients with gum disease caused specifically by P. gingivalis. There are hundreds of bacteria species within the human mouth but only a handful show a relation to gum disease. Genetic testing can determine which bacteria live inside a person’s mouth and, therefore, help experts tailor specific treatments and strategies to combat the harmful bacteria before gum disease can develop. The hope is that such a specific treatment related to each bacterium may have fewer side effects than other treatments.
The peptide-based treatments are not ready for use in dental practices yet, but they represent an advanced and innovative approach to treating gum disease. Take steps to prevent gum disease today by maintaining proper oral hygiene and undergoing regular dental exams from Chianese Dental.