Treating Gum Disease with Antibiotics

cadeceus Oct. 18, 1999 (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) — The best way to treat gum disease may be to consider its source: bacterial infections. According to new research, using antibiotics to treat gum disease may spare as many as 80 percent of the population from the discomfort of periodontal surgery.

According to the American Dental Association, about three out of four adults over the age of 35 have some form of gum disease. In his article in the current issue of Critical Reviews of Oral Biology and Medicine, Walter L. Loesche, M.D., of the University of Michigan, discusses how dentists are changing their ideas about how to treat the condition. He writes that approximately 90 percent of gum disease cases are caused by the overgrowth of bacteria on the teeth. These bacteria produce toxins that can damage the gums.

Dr. Loesche proposes the best approach may be to treat gum disease with short-term use of antibiotics. He suggests this spares patients from having oral surgery and also saves teeth previously considered “hopeless” from extraction. Because antibiotics work throughout the entire body, he suggests they be used for no longer than two weeks at a time to minimize side effects and reduce the chances of developing bacterial resistance. When only a few teeth are involved, dentists can apply topical gels directly to infected pockets.

Source: Critical Reviews of Oral Biology and Medicine, 10(3): 245

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