Milk could soothe the savage gum

Melbourne dental health researchers have discovered a painless, low-cost treatment which may prevent gum disease.

Milk could soothe the savage gum
A peptide found in milk may help prevent gum disease and protect teeth. Credit: Istock photos
And the key ingredients—protein fragments known as peptides—come from cows’ milk.

The link between the peptides and gum disease was forged at the Melbourne Dental School node of the Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre by Dr Elena Toh. “This could provide a cheap and simple way to help prevent gum disease,” she says. “And because the peptides are derived from milk, there should be no toxicity issues.”

The discovery builds on previous work at the Dental School that led to the product Recaldent—also extracted from cows’ milk—which reverses tooth decay.

Up to 30 per cent of Australians experience serious gum disease—nasty bacterial infections that can cause bleeding, swollen gums and bad breath. But gum disease can lead to much worse outcomes. It is a major cause of tooth loss and has been linked to increased risk of other health problems including heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.

“The current treatment involves painful and expensive surgery, so it is better to prevent the onset of the disease if we can,” Elena says.

“The bacteria that cause gum disease have many enzymes on their surface that play a role in causing the bleeding and swelling of the gum tissue,” she says. “We discovered several peptides in cows’ milk that reduce the activity of these enzymes, and we have shown they have the potential to protect animals from gum disease.”

The peptides could be added to a toothpaste or gel that could be applied to your gums to help prevent gum disease, Elena says.

Photo: A peptide found in milk may help prevent gum disease and protect teeth.
Credit: Istock photos

Melbourne Dental School/Oral Health CRC, Elena Toh, e.toh@student.unimelb.edu.au, www.oralhealthcrc.org.au