British Team Researching Ways To Stop Bone Loss Due To Gum Disease

Irreversible bone loss due to gum (periodontal) disease is the focus of a study to change those circumstances for future patients. A British research team, led by Dr. Louise Belfield, will seek a way to reprogram the immune system to stop bone destruction and tooth loss in severe gum disease. Current treatment options for periodontal bone loss are limited.

A 2014 Oral and Dental Research Trust-GSK Research Awards from the British Society of Oral and Dental Research will support the team's efforts.

The study will focus on bone loss that occurs due to periodontitis, which is a common oral health disease that affects the supporting structures of the teeth, and other diseases, such as diabetes and atherosclerosis, related to bone loss.

"Periodontitis and the damage it can do are serious threats to oral and general health," said Dr. Belfield, a lecturer in biomedical sciences at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. "We are excited by the potential of our study to stop bone destruction and tooth loss, and our results could mean relief for tens of thousands of patients. Our thanks go to the British Society of Oral and Dental Research for this award, which will support our work."

Periodontitis can lead to destruction of the bone and soft tissue (the gums) that hold teeth in place, loosening teeth and eventually leading to tooth loss. Bone-destroying cells called osteoclasts contribute to the process, and the researchers aim to identify the mechanisms behind this destruction, to stop or reverse it.

Osteoclasts become active when, in patients with periodontitis, the immune system becomes confused while battling bacteria in the mouth and starts destroying tissue along with the bacteria. In a healthy person the immune system wins and the bacteria are kept under control.

The research team is investigating how to reprogram the faulty immune system in patients with periodontitis to fight bacteria without damaging healthy tissue—halting bone destruction before it advances.

The American Dental Association has information about periodontal disease and bone loss, its consumer information website. Search the A-Z Topics from the homepage.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Top Ways to Prevent GUM DISEASE:

  • Proper brushing and flossing

  • Using antibacterial toothpaste and mouthwash to kill bacteria

  • Biannual dental visits for cleanings and checkups