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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 October 2006, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Plastic pill to fight gum disease
Teeth can become loose and have to be removed
US scientists have developed a tiny plastic pill that they say can prevent tooth loss by treating gum disease.

The pill sits between the threatened tooth and the diseased gum and releases drugs to relieve pain and swelling and fight plaque-causing bacteria.

The plastic also serves as a barrier, enabling the damaged gum and bone to not only heal but regenerate.

The State University of New Jersey team told the American Chemical Society that testing had already begun in animals.

Gum disease

Human clinical trials may be two or more years away, depending on regulatory approvals, lead researcher Mark Reynolds said at the 232nd national meeting of the society in San Francisco.

The pill contains salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin, for the swelling and discomfort, and three antimicrobials to fight the infection.

Gum disease, or gingivitis, is swelling, soreness or infection of the gum tissue. Periodontal disease is when the infection becomes more severe and involves supporting bones surrounding the teeth as well as the gums.

It will be a very long time before this is an available option for patients
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation

All gum disease is caused by the build-up of plaque. More teeth are lost through periodontal disease than through tooth decay.

Daily brushing removes the plaque, helping to prevent and treat gum disease.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: "While this study could eventually lead to some interesting developments, clinical trials on people are still at least two years away so it will be a very long time before this is an available option for patients."

He said a good dental routine including brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily and visiting the dentist regularly could treat and prevent periodontal disease.

"Smoking is also a major cause of gum disease as it increases the amount of plaque produced and starves the gums of oxygen - so if you smoke, give up," he added.

Dr Philip Preshaw, senior lecturer in periodontology at Newcastle University, said: "This drug is particularly exciting as it targets both the bacteria that cause gum disease and the inflammation that then results in destruction of the gum and bone.

"If animal studies and subsequent clinical trials in humans confirm the benefits of this drug, it could become an important treatment option for the 10% of UK adults who suffer from advanced gum disease."

Tooth decay
04 Jun 04 |  Medical notes

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