Diseases & Conditions


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Gum disease


Infection at the roots of the teeth that causes bleeding, receding gums that—if unchecked—can lead to tooth loss. New research at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry showed that it is possible to treat severe root-level bacterial infections with antibiotics, not surgery. Until recently, most dentists treated gum disease by scraping or planing away the root-level plaque and tartar caused by bacteria. In severe cases, oral surgeons made cuts at the gum line to improve access to the affected roots. The new treatment includes drug capsules to be taken for two to four weeks (depending on the severity of the problem), followed by as many as three rounds of topical antibiotics by temporarily gluing on experimental drug-impregnated cellulose film into the root surface. Using this regimen, researchers avoided surgery or extraction for 88 percent of patients, including 67 percent of those with teeth identified by other dentists as too infected to save.