Heartburn Medication May Prove Effective Against Periodontal Disease

A chemical contained in certain acid reflux medications may also be an effective weapon against the bacteria that cause periodontal disease, researchers theorize.

Scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York and Göteborg University in Sweden studied the chemical lansoprazole — a component in medicines that fight bacteria in patients with heartburn, acid reflux disease and stomach ulcers. They found that it was also an effective weapon against bacteria found in dental plaque and periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. Periodontal diseases are classified according to the severity of the disease with the two major stages being gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is a milder and reversible form of periodontal disease that only affects the gums. Gingivitis can lead to more serious, destructive forms of periodontal disease called periodontitis.

"The American diet and the constant drip of sugar allows little time for the natural repair of teeth," said Robert Marquis, Ph.D., University of Rochester Medical Center, the study's lead author. "All day, it's a cycle of acidic erosion and repair — or at least, it should be — but our constant sucking on hard candy and guzzling sodas with high fructose syrups leaves little time for repair."

Lansoprazole in an acidic oral environment, he said, disables the oral bacteria and prevents them from producing toxins or serving as a landing site where more bacteria can grow and thrive.

Researchers theorize that the chemical might one day be an important additive for toothpastes and mouthwashes that can help protect against gingivitis.

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