A Genetic Test for Gum Disease: The Beginning of a New Era in Dentistry

A Genetic Test for Gum Disease: The Beginning of a New Era in Dentistry

Until recently, approaches in dentistry usually shared a "one-size-fits-all" philosophy. But recent advancements in genetic testing have brought the field of dentistry to the forefront of the personalized medicine revolution.

What does this mean for the patient? Now patients can use the health and risk assessments from genetic testing as guidance to prevent or mitigate the onset of certain conditions. Dentists, meanwhile, can take into consideration the complex interaction of genetic, genomic, and environmental factors affecting patients.

Slowly but surely, change is coming to the dentist's office. A service called PerioPredict is the pioneer in using genetic testing as part of mainstream dental care, and thus represents the industry's first foray into personalized dentistry. This test, which is administered by a cheek swab, is conducted during a routine dental exam and measures variations in genes for an inflammatory mediator called Interleukin-1. The test can determine which patients are genetically prone to severe periodontitis, an inflammatory disease in which bacteria break down the tissue and bone that support teeth. Symptoms include pain, swollen gums, difficulty chewing, and tooth loss.

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Here at Aurora Periodontal Care, our very own Dr. Sharona Dayan has been instrumental in elucidating the influence of differential genetic factors on oral health. Dr. Dayan published her research on the biomarker Interleukin-1 as implicated in periodontal disease in the October 2004 edition of Journal of Dental Research, and this inflammatory biomarker is now the target of the PerioPredict test for determining which patients are genetically prone to severe periodontitis. This is useful to the patient because if the test determines that he or she is at risk for severe periodontitis, the dentist can deliver preventative care, including more frequent cleanings to ward off the condition. Left untreated, periodontitis is associated with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and and other systematic inflammatory conditions.  The body is connected in more ways than once imagined. 

Periodontitis isn't the only area where scientists are making progress. Researchers at UCLA are working on saliva-based diagnostistcs focusing on salivary biomarkers of head and neck cancer. Such biomarkers could eventually provide an opportunity for early detection and treatment of head and neck cancer.  Tooth decay, the most common disease in humans, is another example of an oral disease with a link to genetics.

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The important thing to keep in mind is that the mouth is an integral part of the body and oral health really influences systemic health. The mouth is now understood as a diagnostic goldmine for identifying diseases of the body. Genetic testing for gum disease can help dentists in early diagnosis and treatment which can result in better outcomes and improved overall wellbeing. Here at Aurora Periodontal Care we espouse a holistic approach to dentistry, honing in on patients' general health and investing in comfort-enhancing technologies so that they look better, feel better, and smile comfortably and proudly. 

Need Help? Get in touch
At Aurora Periodontal Care we suggest regular check ups and dental cleanings  to keep the body as healthy as possible.  There is more and more evidence that periodontal disease affects general health.  We offer dental teeth cleanings as well as laser LANAP periodontal services for the treatment of bleeding gums and periodontal disease.  If you or a loved one are in need of a cleaning or other preventative services please call us at 781-894-3223.

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