Scientists discover possible new weapon in the fight against gum disease


If you hate going to the dentist, here is some good news. New research published online in The FASEB Journal shows that hormone therapy may effectively control the inflammation that often occurs in gum tissue. Such inflammation, when unchecked, accelerates tooth and bone loss.

“Controlling inflammation during gum disease is a key step to avoid alveolar bone resorption, tooth loss and, thus, improve the quality of life of patients,” said Mila Madeira, a researcher from the Department of Microbiology at the Biologic Science Institute at the Universidad Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

To make their discovery, Madeira and colleagues used several groups of mice. The first group was infected with bacteria related to gum disease and then treated with a melanocortin agonist. Melanocortin receptor agonists are hormones, pharmacologic agents or medications that activate, or inversely activate, one or more melanocortin receptors.

The second group had no infection. The third group was infected, but not treated. The final group was infected and treated with a placebo.

When the researchers examined the mice, they found that those treated with a melanocortin agonist had reduced alveolar bone loss and less inflammation.

Thoru Pederson, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, said this research opens the door to a new class of treatments for gum disease.

“Attenuation of the inflammatory axis of periodontal pathology cannot be overstated in its importance. These findings provide an entirely new approach to this highly prevalent condition.”

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