Gum disease occurs when parasitic bacteria colonize below your gum line, damaging your gums, bones, and teeth, and stimulating a severe immune reaction that damages these tissues further. But now researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered how bacteria colonize under the gum line, and plan to use it to stop periodontitis.

Opportunistic Parasitism

One of the most significant oral bacteria is Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is strongly associated with periodontitis and some of its negative consequences. In order for P. gingivalis to colonize under the gum line, though, it depends on the presence of another oral bacteria which is not actually harmful, Streptococcus gordonii. S. gordonii colonizes our oral tissues almost from birth, including well-established colonies under the gum line. But when P. gingivalis moves into the mouth, it starts out by establishing itself on top of the local S. gordonii population.

But researchers found that certain peptides–organic chemicals similar to proteins but smaller–prevent P. gingivalis from interacting with S. gordonii. When they applied this compound in a tooth varnish to animals, they found that it resulted in significantly lower amounts of colonization by P. gingivalis, and even reduced the amount of bone loss related to parasitic organism.

Researchers had been targeting this interaction initially with 40 different compounds, but found that three of them showed real promise, so they are developing them further.

But What about Other Bacteria?

Of course, it’s hard to accept that a treatment tailored to a single bacteria could effectively treat gum disease in all people, but it’s possible that this targeted treatment could be very useful for some people, who develop P. gingivalis-related gum disease. Although there are hundreds of species of bacteria present in your mouth, only a handful are commonly related to gum disease. Utilizing genetic testing to determine which ones are present in your mouth, then using species-specific treatments might very well prove to be a viable strategy. And because it targets very specific mechanisms related to each bacteria, it’s possible that it might work with fewer side effects.

These treatments aren’t yet ready, but there are still some very advanced approaches to gum disease treatment available. To learn about the latest approaches to treating your gum disease, please call (310) 275-5325 for an appointment with a Beverly Hills periodontist at the office of Dr. Nicolas A. Ravon.