Experiments have demonstrated that acetylsalicylic acid and omega-3 fatty acids may improve the outcome of treating gum disease, a problem that nearly 90 percent of adults face to some extent. A more serious form of gum disease, periodontitis, affects about half of all adults, ten percent of whom have severe problems that require surgery. Experts from the Department of Dentistry of St. Anne’s University Hospital (FNUSA) and the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University, in collaboration with researchers from the Veterinary Research Institute, are studying how to improve treatment of severe forms of periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a chronic infection of the gums caused by dental plaque and an exaggerated immune response from the body. This leads to the gums pulling away from the teeth, the creation of pockets around the teeth, and eventually to bone loss, loose teeth, and tooth loss. Exaggerated immune responses to the infection are caused in part by a lack of molecules that actively fight infections in the body: lipoxins and resolvins.
The research team led by the head of the Department of Dentistry, Lydie Izakovičová Hollá, has conducted tests on animals and human patients to determine whether the creation of these molecules can be supported by commonly available substances – acetylsalicylic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. The objective is to discover new methods for treating periodontitis.
The experimental procedure focuses on the infection itself, concentrating specifically on the granulation tissue that forms naturally to heal all kinds of injuries. “It’s the immune system’s tool for healing, and if everything goes well, the granulation tissue will disappear and be replaced by the original tissue. But with chronic infections the infected site does not want to heal, and therefore, the granulation tissue must be surgically removed. We have tried preserving this tissue, using acids to induce healing processes,” explains dental specialist Filip Hromčík, one of the research team members, an employee of the FNUSA’s Department of Dentistry who is also a PhD student at the MU Faculty of Medicine.
The experimental treatment involves the granulation tissue being removed and dipped for several minutes into solutions of acetylsalicylic acid and omega-3 fatty acids before being returned to the treated site. “We tested whether this acid-enriched granulation tissue improved or worsened the healing of the infection, and because we determined that it did improve things, we will continue to perfect this procedure,” notes Hromčík.
First, the researchers used an animal model (a rabbit) with artificially induced periodontitis to test whether the outcome of this procedure is not worse than that of the standard surgical treatment. They then began performing the experimental treatment on patients who had significant levels of bone loss around their teeth. They treated 19 people, performing both the standard procedure and the new type of treatment on each.
“We discovered that the enhanced granulation tissue procedure, when compared with the standard procedure, results in about one millimetre more of tissue, which is a statistically significant improvement of healing. Usually, this infection can cause five to ten millimetres of bone loss,” says the dental researcher.
This experimental treatment has the best outcomes when applied to advanced cases of gum disease. The team will continue to study this new method for treating periodontitis. “We are going to improve this technique and also try other concentrations to perfect the method. It is a very simple, easy, and inexpensive way to regenerate damaged tissue and in the future may be used to treat other chronic infections like rheumatoid arthritis or atherosclerosis,” adds Hromčík.