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Drugs for heartburn may help with gum disease

a lady taking heartburn medication
Research reveals a relationship between gum disease and the use of heartburn medication.
  • Recent research has shown a probable therapeutic relationship between heartburn medications and a better outlook for people with gum disease.
  • People who use heartburn medicines had a “lower gum line depth,” or the gap between their gums and teeth, according to the study, compared to those who don’t.
  • Researchers found that 14 percent of those who used stomach acid-reducing medicines had a lowered gum line depth of at least 6 millimeters (mm), compared to 24 percent of those who did not.
  • Future research is needed to determine how these medications influence gum disease and how effective they can be in treating it.

Infections and inflammation of the gums and bones that surround and support the teeth cause periodontal disease. The disease progresses in phases.

Gingivitis is an early-stage disease in which the gums become red, swollen, and bleed. Gingivitis in its latter stages might develop to more severe inflammation and periodontitis.

Gums may peel away from teeth, bone loss may occur, and teeth may loosen or fall out as a result of periodontitis.

Periodontal disease affects mostly adults and is one of the most serious threats to oral health, along with tooth decay.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), percentages of people affected by periodontitis vary between age groups. An estimated 47.2 percent of people aged 30 and over have some form of the disease. This rate rises with age, with 70.1 percent of those 65 and older suffering from the disease.

Dr. Ian Needleman, professor of periodontology and evidence-informed treatment at UCL Eastman Dental Institute in London, talked with Medical News Today. He stated, “

“In most populations, some level of periodontitis affects nearly 50% of people, with around 10% having severe disease globally, risking loss of many teeth with detrimental effects on life quality.”

Gum disease has a variety of causes.

Infections in the tissues around the teeth can be caused by bacteria in the mouth, causing the gums to peel away from the tooth. Plaque is formed when bacteria remain on the teeth for a long period of time.

Dental plaque hardens into tartar over time, making teeth more difficult to clean. To prevent the disease from worsening, a dental health specialist must remove the tartar at this point.

There are several things a person may take to maintain good oral health and avoid gum disease.

Traditional treatment

Antibiotics including tetracycline, minocycline, and doxycycline are frequently used by dentists to treat gum disease. Peridex and Periogard, as well as a variety of over-the-counter medicines and toothpaste, are also beneficial.

To treat and soothe the discomfort associated with this gum condition, oils and gels can be used topically — on the gum’s surface.

Severe periodontal disease may require more intensive treatment, such as ultrasonic tooth scaling and deep cleaning below the gum line. Treatment with a laser is also a possibility, and more comprehensive corrective surgery may be the last option.

New hope for healthy gums

Researchers from New York State University in Buffalo’s Department of Periodontics and Endodontics have conducted a retrospective study. The researchers published their findings in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dental Research. The findings might one day lead to a new way of treating people with periodontitis.

The researchers gathered the medical information of 1,093 patients from a faculty practice that specialized in treating people with the disease.

They compared the severity of gum disease amongst study participants by measuring the proportion of “elevated probing depths” in gums — the depth of the gaps between gums and teeth.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) users had a lower proportion of higher probing depths than non-PPI users, according to the participants’ findings. A decrease in probing depth indicates that the disease is less serious.

Probing depths of 6 mm or more were found in 24 percent of teeth from people who did not take PPIs compared to 14 percent of teeth from people who did.

Similarly, 27 percent of PPI-people’ teeth had probing depths of 5 mm or higher, compared to 40 percent of non-users’ teeth.

The study found that some PPI side effects, including as those altering bone metabolism and microbe diversity in the gastrointestinal system, may be to blame for lower bone loss and gum disease severity.

If the authors’ findings are confirmed, health professionals may be able to utilize PPIs in conjunction with other strategies to improve gum disease therapy. Lisa M. Yerke, the study’s primary investigator, remarked in an interview with MNT:

“If this relationship can be demonstrated in additional populations, then the mechanism can be further investigated using prospective studies. That information might lead to potential treatment modalities for periodontitis in the future.”

“These are early, hypothesis-generating discoveries,” says Dr. Needleman. […] The data (clear differences between the groups other than using PPIs that likely confounded the findings) and the nature of the study (retrospective) offer suggestions for future research rather than having therapeutic relevance now.”

The next steps

Prof. Needleman was questioned by MNT regarding possible future moves. “A bigger cross-sectional research with more complete demographics that allows for better statistical modeling of confounders, including health comorbidities and health habits, and detrimental effects of PPIs,” he stated.

“If this provides interesting data on PPIs and on safety,” he continued, “an identical placebo-controlled randomized controlled trial [is needed] as part of an intervention to treat periodontitis.”

Additional studies are being developed by the authors to see if the findings in this research are applicable to other groups of people with gum disease, as well as the extent to which PPIs are directly responsible for the severity decreases.

“PPIs might be regarded as adjuncts to periodontitis therapy if they are safe and effective,” Dr. Needleman concludes.