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Antibiotic-Resistant Oral Bacteria on the Rise. Ozone to the Rescue!

“Antibiotics are frequently overused and misused in dental practice,” note the authors of a recent paper in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. By one estimate, over 80% of antibiotics prescribed before dental procedures just aren’t needed.

One result of this is a rise in antimicrobial resistance – including that of one bacterium that plays a big role in gum disease: Porphyromonas gingivalis, or P. gingivalis, for short.

This development was recently documented by a study in the journal Antibiotics, in which P. gingivalis samples were studied from almost 2200 patients with severe periodontitis. The samples came from three different time periods: 1999-2000, 2009-2010, and 2019-2020. The bacteria were cultured and then tested for resistance to several antibiotics, including clindamycin and amoxicillin, the two antibiotics that dentists turn to most often.

The researchers found that, between 1999 and 2020, there was a 15-fold increase in clindamycin-resistant P. gingivalis and a 28-fold increase in amoxicillin-resistant P. gingivalis.

“These findings,” noted the study authors, “are the first to document the emergence of antibiotic-resistant periodontal P. gingivalis in the United States.”

This has serious public health implications, of course. Gum disease enables P. gingivalis and other harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. Research shows that gum disease heightens risks for systemic health problems like heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, cognitive decline, and certain cancers.

Fortunately, we still have a very powerful weapon against harmful oral bacteria of all kinds: dental ozone.

Ozone Therapy: A Potent, Resistance-Free Antimicrobial

Ozone is made of three oxygen atoms and possesses unique antimicrobial properties that allow it to decimate harmful bacteria while leaving healthy cells intact.

Recent research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health demonstrated ozone’s efficacy against P. gingivalis.

The study involved 30 people with chronic periodontitis, 12 of whom tested positive for P. gingivalis. Each of those 12 then had a deep cleaning followed by ozone therapy before having their oral bacteria tested again.

Half now tested negative for P. gingivalis. The rest experienced a reduction in bacterial load. The latter group received a second ozone treatment and were tested again.

This time, all but one patient tested negative. Even then, the extra dose of ozone had further reduced their P. gingivalis count.

“Ozone therapy,” the researchers wrote,

has excellent medicinal value in the different periodontal treatments. Periodontal diseases contain more than 500 distinct microbial species. The growing microbial resistance has led to the use of higher concentrations of antibiotics which, in turn, leads to side effects including drastic alterations to the host beneficial microflora. Thus, a therapeutic modality capable of reducing the bacterial load without any significant side effect is the need of the hour. Ozone therapy is an effective antimicrobial modality which is painless, thus increases the patient’s compliance to therapeutic interventions.

Taking a More Comprehensive Approach to Treating Gum Disease

Bear in mind, too, that ozone is simply one tool – an especially powerful and effective one – that we employ in helping our patients heal their infected gums and lower their risk of the various conditions linked to poor periodontal health.

At the Holistic Dental Center of New Jersey, we also emphasize nutritional approaches and lifestyle changes that can help improve and sustain periodontal health. In severe cases, we have tools like LANAP that can actually regenerate bone – something that not so long ago was thought to be impossible to do – while removing diseased tissue and disinfecting below the gums.

As we like to say, healthy teeth need healthy gums and bone to support them. This is exactly why we believe a broader kind of holistic treatment is needed, so we can help each and every one of our patients achieve that. Dental ozone is central to that approach.