While most dental implants go well, 6% to 15% of patients develop an inflammatory response in the subsequent years, according to the Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany. In the worst cases, bacteria can even destroy the soft tissue and the bone around the implant. However, researchers at the university have developed a diagnostic test that uses chewing gum to determine if patients carry such bacteria.
If there is inflammation in the oral cavity, a blistering agent is released while the patient chews the gum, which the researchers are developing. Patients then can visit their dentist, who would confirm the diagnosis and treat the disease. This type of early detection would help to prevent serious complications such as bone loss, according to the researchers.
“Anyone can use this new diagnostic tool anywhere and anytime without any technical equipment,” said Lorenze Meinel, Dr sc nat, Dr rer med, chair for drug formulation and delivery at JMU and developer of the diagnostic tool with Jennifer Ritzer, PhD, and her team.
In the presence of inflammatory conditions, specific protein-degrading enzymes are activated in the mouth. In just 5 minutes, these enzymes also break down a special ingredient in the chewing gum, releasing a bittering agent that could not be tasted before. The researchers proved that this principle works with first studies using the saliva of patients at the Merli Dental Clinic in Rimini.
Meinel’s team plans on setting up a company to launch the chewing gum into the market, with expectations that it will be ready for commercialization in 2 to 3 years. Rapid tests using chewing gum for other medical applications also are under development.
“We hope to be able to diagnose other diseases with our ‘anyone, anywhere, anytime’ diagnostics to identify and address these diseases as early as possible,” said Meinel.
The study, “Diagnosing Peri-Implant Disease Targeting the Tongue as 24/7 Detector,” was published by Nature Communications.