Could heartburn drugs be used to treat gum disease?

14 October 2021
1 min read

That’s the question now being asked, after a study from the University at Buffalo revealed that patients who used proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – a class of drugs commonly prescribed to treat heartburn, acid reflux and ulcers – were more likely to have smaller probing depths in the gums.

Lead investigator Lisa M. Yerke, DDS, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Periodontics and Endodontics at the UB School of Dental Medicine, explained that the findings, published recently in Clinical and Experimental Dental Research, may be linked to the side effects of PPIs, which include changes in bone metabolism and in the gut microbiome.

Lisa expanded, “PPIs could potentially be used in combination with other periodontal treatments; however, additional studies are first needed to understand the underlying mechanisms behind the role PPIs play in reducing the severity of periodontitis.”

The study, which also involved Bhavneet Chawla, UB alumnus, and Robert E. Cohen, DDS, PhD, professor of periodontics and endodontics in the UB School of Dental Medicine, aimed to determine whether a relationship exists between PPI use and gum disease. They analysed clinical data from more than 1,000 periodontitis patients either using or not using PPIs. Probing depths were used as an indicator of periodontitis severity.

Media outlet Eureka discussed the study, explaining, “The findings revealed that only 14 per cent of teeth from patients who used PPIs had probing depths of 6 millimetres or more, compared to 24 per cent of teeth from patients who did not use the medication. Furthermore, 27 per cent of teeth from patients using PPIs had probing depths of 5 millimetres or more, compared to 40 per cent of teeth from non-PPI users.”

Following this, the researchers theorized that PPIs’ ability to alter bone metabolism or the gut microbiome, as well as potentially impact periodontal microorganisms, may help lessen the severity of gum disease.

Lisa also explained that “Additional studies are under development to determine if this relationship can be found in other populations of patients with gum disease, and to learn to what extent the relationship can be directly attributed to PPIs.”