Treat Gum Disease

Auranofin under development to treat gum disease.

Charles W Martin By Charles W Martin, DDS

Could reducing your risk of gum disease be as simple as taking a trip to the health food store? Well, according to recent research at the University of Central Florida, and old drug that’s already approved by the FDA and is used to treat arthritis might be one way to halt the growth of a couple of “super bugs” that contribute to a rash of ailments from severe diarrhea and colitis to gum disease. The research that determined that the drug Auranofin – a gold salt – can help prevent the growth of certain bacteria linked to gum disease also found out that plain old tooth brushing with a toothpaste containing stannous fluoride may help as well. Best of all, this research could lead us to new ways to treat gum disease.

Researchers believe that Auranofin, which is a mineral commonly found in health stores, may be key to developing new antibiotics for two strains of bacteria, one that causes severe diarrhea and colitis and one that causes gum disease.

The gum disease causing bacteria, Treponema denticola or T. denticola, requires selenium for growth. Selenium is found in a number of proteins in bacterial cells and in human cells. These are called selenoproteins, and this latest research shows that interrupting the way they are made can halt the growth of both T. denticola and the super bug Clostridium difficile that is linked to diarrhea and colitis.

Researcher William Self, an Associate Professor at the University of Central Florida, has taken a new approach to stopping these bacteria by affecting the metabolism process of selenium and producing a chemical reaction that prevents the bacteria from using selenium to grow. It’s typically used to control inflammation which has led to its use as an arthritis treatment and it has been known to inhibit the activity of certain selenoproteins.

While Self’s initial studies were with C. difficile, the research led to studies with T. denticola, which plays a significant role in the development of gum disease. During his tests, Self found that the stannous salts that are used in many antimicrobial toothpastes under the more familiar name of stannous fluoride also inhibited the growth of selenoproteins.

This is a new therapeutic approach that not only has potential for helping us to develop new ways to treat gum disease, it may also help us understand how Auranofin works for arthritis, helping us better understand ways to treat that old enemy inflammation. If you’re a regular reader of these dLife columns, you know it plays a significant role in gum disease and that when you treat gum disease, you improve metabolic control and lower blood sugar levels. For more on the role that inflammation plays in gum disease and diabetes, check out my column Better Blood Glucose Control May Keep Gum Disease Away.

For more information about dental care for people who have diabetes, visit and Dr. Martin’s blog,

To learn more about the two-way connection between diabetes and gum disease, check out the other columns here on dLife or Dr. Martin’s book, Don’t Sugar Coat It.

Read Dr. Charles Martin's bio here.

Read more of Dr. Martin's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition. 

Last Modified Date: November 27, 2012

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the benefits that made it cost-effective for me to go with the real healthcare (HSA) plan rather than the phony (HRA) plan is that my company is now covering "preventative" medicines at $0 copay. The formulary for these, as stated by CVS/Caremark (my pharmacy benefits provider), covers all test strips, lancets, and control solutions. I dutifully get my doctor to write up prescriptions for all of my testing needs, submit...
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