Heartburn drugs may provide unexpected benefits for those with gum disease

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heartburn medication gum disease
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The use of heartburn medication is associated with decreased severity of gum disease, according to a recent US study.

The research from a team at the University at Buffalo, New York, found that patients who used proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)—a class of drugs commonly prescribed to treat heartburn, acid reflux and ulcers—were more likely to have smaller probing depths in the gums. When gums are healthy, they fit snuggly against the teeth. However, in the presence of harmful bacteria, the gap deepens, leading to inflammation, bone loss and periodontitis.

The findings, published in Clinical and Experimental Dental Research, may be linked to the side effects of PPIs, which include changes in bone metabolism and in the gut microbiome, lead investigator A/Prof Lisa Yerke said.

“PPIs could potentially be used in combination with other periodontal treatments; however, additional studies are first needed to understand the underlying mechanisms behind the role PPIs play in reducing the severity of periodontitis.”

The study sought to determine whether a relationship exists between PPI use and gum disease. The researchers analysed clinical data from more than 1000 periodontitis patients either using or not using PPIs. Probing depths were used as an indicator of periodontitis severity.

Only 14 per cent of teeth from patients who used PPIs had probing depths of six millimetres or more, compared to 24 per cent of teeth from patients who did not use the medication. And 27 per cent of teeth from patients using PPIs had probing depths of five millimetres or more, compared to 40 per cent of teeth from non-PPI users, according to the study.

The researchers theorised that PPIs’ ability to alter bone metabolism or the gut microbiome, as well as potentially impact periodontal microorganisms, may help lessen the severity of gum disease.

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