Studying the impact of antibiotics in dental care

Periodontal disease affects nearly 40% of the U.S. Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is one of the most common inflammatory diseases in adults worldwide. It can be difficult to manage, often resurging despite treatment and triggering tooth loss, jawbone damage and a constant, low-level inflammation that increases the risk of systemic inflammatory illnesses such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

In tandem with a deep cleaning, dentists often prescribe antibiotics to combat inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria in plaque. Researchers and practitioners want to better understand which patients positively respond to antibiotics.

With a four-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, School of Dentistry researchers will work in collaboration with the American Dental Association Science & Research Institute to conduct a clinical trial studying the responsible use of antibiotics in combination with other treatments for periodontal disease.

The study, funded by NIH’s National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research, is led by principal grant recipient and investigator Georgios Kotsakis, DDS, MS, associate professor of periodontics. The institute’s chief executive officer Marcelo Araujo, DDS, PhD, serves as co-investigator and collaborator. It is one of the largest dental clinical trials in the U.S., Kotsakis said.

Kotsakis and his team in the Translational Periodontal Research Lab will generate data from 1,050 periodontal patients treated with antibiotics. More than 30 clinicians nationwide, belonging to the National Dental Practice- Based Research Network, will share patient outcomes and experiences, contributing data to the development of evidence-based clinical guidelines, treatment alternatives and information on proper antibiotic use.

“With the current rise of superbugs, which are bacteria that kill tens of thousands of Americans every year due to antibiotic resistance, there is a critical need to determine if specific patient populations benefit from adjunctive antibiotics,” Kotsakis said.

The new trial is expected to begin in spring 2023, and the periodontal patients will be treated and followed over a period of approximately one year.

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