A British university is promoting its studies of a new over-the-counter test for gum disease, which it claims will help people identify their risk of this potentially serious condition so that they can treat it and avoid effects like receding gums and bone loss. However, there is some question about whether the test will really help.
One of the problems cited by the Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry is that many ways of detecting gum disease are reactive. For example, examining gums and using x-rays to examine the extent of bone loss are both ways that we detect the disease after receding gums and bone damage have already occurred. And once periodontitis has become established, it’s hard to treat.
However, researchers say, if there were a quick, easy, and accurate test available over-the-counter, people would be better able to know when they are at risk for gum disease and therefore be able to take steps to prevent damage.
But Will It Be Effective?
The truth is that this kind of test already exists. Using DNA analysis, dentists are able to test a person’s saliva to identify the types of oral bacteria present. Because periodontal disease that aggressively attacks the gums and bone is related to certain types of oral bacteria, this tells us whether a person is at risk for the more serious form of the disease. With the current existence of this test, there are reasons to doubt whether an over-the-counter option will make much of a difference.
First, people who care about their teeth and gums are already going to their dentist. They already have access to this test. Perhaps an over-the-counter test might lead to a cheaper, faster option, leading to more widespread adoption, but it’s unlikely to be that huge of an impact.
Second, gum disease is largely a silent disease–until it becomes very obvious. It seems unlikely that most people are going to be routinely testing for gum disease if they don’t have any symptoms. And once they have symptoms, a visit to the dentist can not only easily diagnose the problem, but begin treatment. For some patients, though, an over-the-counter test might have a negative impact by encouraging them to test and try to treat without the help of a dentist.
Finally, prevention care steps that can be taken are limited. Brushing and flossing, of course, should already be done. The removal of oral bacteria using antibiotics is an option, but it’s hard to know if that’s justified for a person who is not experiencing any negative symptoms.
Overall, more knowledge is better, but it is hard to imagine that this new test will have a significant impact on the prevalence of receding gums.
What does have an impact is nonsurgical gum rejuvenation, which can restore your gums to their original position. If you would like to learn more about the benefits of this technique, please call 310-275-5325 in Beverly Hills or (949) 551-5902 in Orange County.