For patients who receive dental implants, bacterial inflammation-related implant failure is a serious concern. Though inflammation-related implant failure only affects between 6 and 15 percent of dental implant patients, it can be catastrophic, causing patients to lose not just a costly implant, but also bone and tissue as well.

Complicating matters, many patients do not seek help for bacterial inflammation until a serious problem presents itself, often out of fear or the hope that symptoms will simply improve on their own. This delay often allows bacterial infections to worsen, increasing the chance of implant failure and bone and tissue loss.

But a new product developed at Julius-Maximilians Universitat (JMU) Wurzburg in Bavaria, Germany, may soon help change that. Researchers at JMU have developed a chewing gum-based bacteria test that anyone can use, anywhere, and it could save a lot of teeth.

The gum, which currently does not have a name, reportedly works just like regular chewing gum, but with a twist. The patient chews the pleasant-tasting gum for five minutes, and if harmful, infection-causing bacteria is present in the mouth, the gum’s flavor begins to change from pleasant to bitter. If the patient detects the bitter taste, he or she would then be directed to reach out to a dentist for treatment.

Dr. Stephen Hill of Allen, Texas, believes this type of self-diagnostic has great potential.

"Hopefully when this product hits the market it will be affordable enough for regular use for all patients," says Hill. "Often patients wait until it’s too late to report problems out of fear or denial, but in many cases, they don’t even know what to look for. If all they need to do is chew a stick of gum for five minutes a month, it could stop harmful bacteria before it becomes a problem - even if the patient doesn’t know the warning signs."

Though the gum is not commercially available yet, the development team at JMU hopes it will be available on the retail market within the next three years.