Despite being a dangerous and destructive condition, gum disease manifests with few symptoms. That is, until the effects of advanced gum disease are seen, such as receding gums.
Researchers are hoping to avoid this problem by coming up with a novel detection tool: chewing gum.
Although designed with dental implants in mind, it is likely that this innovation could help people with gum disease, abscessed tooth, and many other illnesses that manifest in or near the mouth.
New Screening Method Needed for Gum Disease
Gum disease is one of the most common chronic illnesses in the US population. Nearly half of all adults in the country have some degree of gum disease. Gum disease can cause gum recession, and it’s the leading cause of tooth loss among adults.
It’s also been associated with many serious chronic conditions, such as heart disease, pneumonia, stroke, pregnancy complications, autoimmune disorders, dementia, and cancer. The sooner we can detect gum disease, the better we can treat it to avoid these negative health consequences.
A Bitter Diagnosis
Researchers wanted to come up with an easy, effective way to detect infection in the mouth and realized they could use the power of the human tongue to detect flavors. And one of the flavors that the tongue can detect best is bitterness.
People are sensitive to bitterness in part because it’s associated with many poisons. Researchers used the most bitter substance known, denatonium, to create their detector. Researchers linked denatonium to a molecule that gets chopped up by enzymes found in the saliva of people with an oral infection. As a whole, the denatonium compound won’t dissolve in saliva, so it’s tasteless. But when the molecule gets split apart, the denatonium dissolves and the result is a strong bitter flavor.
So far, researchers haven’t tested the gum with actual people. The tasting was left up to an electric tongue, but they did use real people’s saliva. They mixed the gum with saliva from people with gum disease and those without and found that gum-disease saliva released three times the bitter compounds released by healthy people’s saliva. That should be enough of a difference to get some attention.
There’s no word about when the chewing gum test will be available, but in the meantime, researchers are expanding their research to develop a gum that can tell the difference between strep throat from sore throats related to the flu.
Too Late for an Early Warning?
Unfortunately, without this kind of early warning method, many of us don’t know we have gum disease until we see the effects, such as receding gums. If you are unhappy with receding gums and are looking for a way to restore your gums’ youthful appearance, please call (949) 551-5902 today for an appointment with an Orange County cosmetic dentist at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.