Diabetes drug Metformin could treat gum disease

A new method of controlling inflammation and sugar levels for oral and systemic disease prevention has been discovered

10 October, 2023 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

New ways of preventing periodontal disease and potentially reducing the incidence of diabetes and obesity have been found by a team of researchers.

The new approach focuses on controlling inflammation and sugar levels in both the mouth and body with a common type 2 diabetes drug, Metformin.

Periodontal diseases are strikingly common across the world and are strongly associated with systemic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Lifestyle choices such as increased sugar intake are a common cause of gum disease, as well as diabetes and obesity.

For the first time we have a potential tool that can help not only with gum disease, but overall health

The only treatment strategy currently available to tackle gum disease is to deep clean the teeth to rid the mouth of bacteria, as well as prescribing antibiotics. But this treatment does not protect against the continuation and development of systemic associated diseases, such as diabetes and obesity.  

Metformin, a pharmaceutical agent capable of modulating sugar metabolism, is a drug commonly used for the management of diabetes, but it is not typically used in dentistry.

The researchers at King’s College London found that Metformin led to significant prevention of bone-loss during induced periodontal disease and age-related bone-loss in vivo (in living mice). They then tested the use of this drug in patients with gum disease without diabetes in the first ever clinical trial. The trial showed improved clinical outcomes in the gum disease treatment, and control of sugar levels and inflammation in the mouth and body, even in high levels of bacteria.  

The use of this new method of gum disease prevention would also help control weight gain and sugar levels, potentially proving to be a new solution to prevent systemic and oral disease in one. Metformin is a relatively cheap drug, costing around £0.04 per tablet at market price. Researchers say this treatment could be implemented at an even lower cost if supplied by the NHS. 

Dr Vitor Neves, lead author of the study, said: “[People] often do not have any tools to fight against gum disease, other than brushing their teeth, but for the first time we have a potential tool that can help not only with gum disease, but overall health.

“Metformin is readily available around the world and is cheap, therefore allowing the drug to be used as a preventive medicine for oral and systemic diseases that could be adopted on a global scale. This would help many to age healthier – all starting from taking care of their mouths.”

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