Magazine article Science News

Biting Down on the Culprit Causing Gum Disease

Magazine article Science News

Biting Down on the Culprit Causing Gum Disease

Article excerpt

Biting down on the culprit causing gum disease

About 10.sup.10 bacteria are found in each site of periodontal, or gum, disease. Among those are about 300 different species of bacteria. And among those species about 12 are considered nasty; they are suspected of being involved in the progression of periodontal disease in adults, which destroys the tissue and bone that support teeth.

But because scientists have not been able to determine which ones are the key types, dentists are forced to use a variety of procedures, including antibiotics (SN: 10/24/87, p.268), to halt the progression of the disease. This course of treatment can pose problems because bacteria can develop a resistance to medication. In addition, antibiotics break down bacteria into their component parts, some of which may infect the mouth.

Now, new work is pointing to a specific bacterium, Bacteroides gingivalis, as at least one cause of periodontal disease. Dental researchers hope that by pinning down specific bacteria, they eventually may be able to interfere with the progression of periodontal disease, perhaps by preventing the key types from colonizing or by cutting off their food supply, which consists primarily of the by-products of other bacteria.

In recent years, scientists have repeatedly isolated B. gingivalis from diseased gums in adults and have linked it to the progression of periodontal disease in humans and monkeys. But they have not been able to say that it is a cause of periodontal disease. For example, when researchers tried to implant it in the mouths of rodents, they did not observe any resulting disease.

However, a group of researchers reports in the Jan. 1 SCIENCE that B. gingivalis does cause a burst of periodontal disease in monkeys, whose mouths have a microbiology and immunology similar to humans'. …

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