Common diabetes drug could treat gum disease and help you age healthier 

12 October 2023

In their latest publication in the Journal of Translational Medicine, a team of researchers at King’s College London have found new ways of stopping periodontal (gum) disease and potentially reducing the incidence of diabetes and obesity. This new approach focuses on controlling inflammation and sugar levels in both the mouth and body with a common type 2 diabetes drug, Metformin.  

Periodontal (gum) diseases are strikingly common across the globe 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. And what links diabetes, obesity, and gum disease is that they develop over our lifetime, but gum disease has the potential to be picked up first as it can start as early as 30 years old. Metformin could be used to reduce obesity and diabetes before they develop while used as a treatment to stop gum disease.  

The only treatment strategy currently available to tackle gum disease is to clean the teeth deep to rid the mouth of bacteria, as well as prescribing antibiotics. However, 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 found that Metformin led to significant prevention of bone-loss during induced periodontal disease and age-related bone-loss in vivo (in living mice). In addition, given the safety of Metformin, the research team, in the first ever clinical trial, tested the use of this drug in patients with gum disease without diabetes. 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 cheap drug in the UK and around the world and costs £0.04 per tablet at market price. Researchers say this treatment could be implemented at an even lower cost if supplied by the NHS. 

Lead author of the study, Dr Vitor Neves from King’s College London, said, “Our patients 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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