Antibiotics are often used in combination with surgery, curettage, or alone to eliminate or prevent disease-causing bacteria after periodontal procedures. They are being investigated in oral forms as well as in topical forms that are applied directly to the gum. Increasingly, dental professionals are finding that local application of antibiotics is more effective than periodontal surgery alone. They may even prove to be an alternative to surgery.
Antibiotics given orally and at standard doses have some limited applications for periodontal disease. They are typically given for an acute infection. Long-term use of antibiotics is advised for the control of juvenile periodontitis, refractory periodontitis, rapidly progressing periodontitis, and prepubertal periodontitis. (Long-term use of oral antibiotics is generally not advised due to the risks of bacterial resistance.) Specific antibiotics used in periodontal disease include:
Topical application of antibiotics to the gum surface does not affect the entire body like oral antibiotics do, and they are preferred whenever possible. Studies suggest that, in combination with scaling and planing, any of these approaches are very effective for periodontal health.
Subantimicrobial Dose Doxycycline (Periostat). Subantimicrobial dose doxycycline (SDD) is a term used for a treatment that uses very low doses (20 mg) of doxycycline (Periostat). Although doxycycline is a tetracycline antibiotic, the doses used are too low to affect bacteria. However, at these dose levels, the drug blocks matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) -- enzymes that destroy the connective tissues holding the teeth. Periostat is taken twice a day for months.
There is some concern that such long-term use may pose a risk for the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria or other, still unknown, adverse effects. The doses used in this treatment, however, are too low to have any effect on bacteria, so this risk may be very low. In fact, several 12-month studies report significant improvements in tooth attachment and pocket depth with no increased incidence of side effects. [Taking a common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil) along with doxycycline, may enhance the effectiveness of this treatment.]
Chemically Modified Tetracyclines. Other tetracyclines are being developed that inhibit MMPs but have no antibiotic properties, which would, theoretically, avoid possible long-term problems with antibiotic resistance.
NSAIDs are drugs that block factors that cause inflammation and pain.
These drugs are used not only for relieving pain in periodontal disease but also for slowing the disease process. NSAIDs block inflammatory enzymes triggered by cytokines, which are important immune factors in periodontal disease. A number of NSAIDs are being investigated for their benefits in reducing gingivitis and slowing progression of periodontal disease. Investigators are also studying rinses, creams, and other topical forms of NSAIDs. Long-term use of NSAIDs can cause stomach problems, such as ulcers and bleeding, and possible heart problems.
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