Kathryn Uhrich, PhD, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University in New Jersey, has developed a concept she hopes will give patients with periodontal disease something to smile about— a “plastic pill” that would deliver bacteria-killing drugs directly to infected gums and other tissues surrounding the teeth.

The plastic pill, called a "polyaspirin," is made up of a biodegradable plastic that contains three antibiotics to destroy harmful bacteria plus salicylic acid, the main ingredient in ASA, to reduce inflammation of the tissues that support teeth. Periodontal disease develops when plaque builds up under the gums. Bacteria in plaque produce toxins that irritate the gums and cause tissues to break down. As a result, gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets where bacteria can grow and damage bone that holds teeth in place. Without treatment and proper oral hygiene, teeth can become loose and even fall out.

According to Uhrich, periodontists would tuck a small amount of the drug-infused polymer under the gum and into these pockets. Over about several weeks, the pill would secrete the medications to promote healing and disappear.

Mark Reynolds, DDS, head of periodontics at the University of Maryland Dental School, who is collaborating with Uhrich and is testing the drug-infused polymer in lab animals with induced periodontal disease, says the bottom line is that there is great potential that the polymer will allow them to more effectively control infection through the delivery of antimicrobials and it will allow the body to regenerate lost support around the teeth, which will forestall tooth loss.

Reynolds estimates that it would be 2 to 3 years before researchers would begin testing the technology in humans.

[sympatico.msn.ca, September 14, 2006]