Sept. 15, 2006 -- A high-tech pill inserted in the mouth may one day save your smile by treating gum disease.
Researchers have developed a polymer-based drug delivery system that kills disease-causing bacteria while easing pain and swelling and creating a space between the teeth and gums to facilitate healing.
The pill would be inserted between the teeth and gums and slowly dissolve to release salicylic acid (the main ingredient in aspirin) to reduce pain and discomfort. It would also contain three antimicrobial drugs to kill the bacteria that cause periodontal, or gum, disease.
Researchers are currently testing the drug delivery system in animals and say human trials of the plastic gum-disease pill could be two or more years away, pending FDA approvals.
About one in 10 Americans has gum disease serious enough to require treatment. If left untreated, the condition can lead to loss of teeth.
Treatment of very advanced gum disease usually involves surgery.
Periodontal disease occurs when plaques that form on the surface of teeth spread below the gum line. The plaque carries with it bacteria that can irritate, inflame, and eventually destroy the tissues and bones that support the teeth.
Plastic Pill Helps Gums Heal
Researchers say the new pill serves a dual purpose by acting as a barrier while also delivering drugs to speed the healing process.
Once implanted, the pill would gradually break down to release pain-relieving salicylic acid as well as antimicrobials to fight infection at a steady pace. In lab studies, the release of antimicrobials from the pill lasted eight days.
Researcher Michelle Johnson of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and colleagues, presented their findings this week at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.