Do you brush and floss daily? This question may be the perfect opportunity to tell a little white lie to your dentist, but dental health is a serious subject, especially if you’re at risk for genetic gum disease. Oral health has a huge impact on both physical and mental well-being. The major oral health problems in most industrialized countries are dental caries and periodontitis.
Dental caries (cavities, tooth decay) is described as damage on tooth surfaces that may develop into holes and stimulate dental nerves causing pain and discomfort. Periodontitis is a serious gum infection causing inflammation that leads to tooth loss. Together, they were the 11th most prevalent causes of disease worldwide in 2016. In addition, the global economic costs of dental diseases exceeded $540 billion US dollars in 2015.
Both cavities and periodontitis are caused by bacteria colonizing teeth and dental pockets and are linked to poor dental hygiene. However, even people who follow careful hygiene practices and see their dentist regularly still develop dental problems. More recently, it has been reported that up to half of the risk in developing these dental health conditions could be your genes.
Genetics might explain why you can do all the right things and still end up with inflamed gums and tooth decay. Genes don’t cause dental caries, but some genes do affect the way your body responds to bacteria in the bones and gums.
Scientists studying the connection between genes and dental health theorize that some people produce too many of certain kind of cell that lead to gum inflammation and bone loss in the jaw.
A minimum of 38 genes have been linked to dental caries and periodontitis. The two most common are FAM5C and IL-1B-Interleukin-1.
The FAM5C gene is linked to aggressive periodontal disease. Aggressive periodontal disease is a rapidly progressing type of gum disease that typically occurs before the age of 30. The FAM5C gene is also connected to cardiovascular disease.
IL-1B-Interleukin-1 is a protein that controls the activity of cells that play a part in the inflammatory response. Carrying a variation in the IL-1B gene could increase your risk of developing aggressive periodontitis.
Studies on these two genes are only the beginning of the scientific understanding of genetic gum disease. Large studies confirm an association between dental disease and your DNA.
Researchers used data from two large scale cohorts, the UK biobank (UKB) and the Gene Lifestyle Interactions in Dental Endpoints (GLIDE) consortium. These epidemiologic cohorts include detailed information on clinical endpoints of dental diseases, data that was used to conduct a meta-analysis to identify genetic relationships with self-reported dental disease.
By evaluating self-reported data on decayed, missing and filled tooth surfaces (DMFS) and dentures, researchers identiﬁed a total of 47 novel risk loci, all of which were consistent across both cohort populations, with similar effect sizes. In particular, rs11676272, a single nucleotide polymorphism located on the adenylyl cyclase type 3 gene (ADCY3), was found to be significantly associated with both DMFS and denture use. The exact function of this gene is not entirely understood, but it plays a significant role in creating cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), an important messenger molecule for cells.
When it comes to genetic correlations between DMFS, denture use, and other health-related outcomes, scientists have previously found positive relationships with smoking, lung cancer and coronary artery disease, and negative correlations were found with longevity and particular educational attainment.
Among the 47 risk loci discovered in this study, 26 (57%) have previously been associated with one or more non-dental diseases or health traits, including adiposity traits (11/26 overlaps), height (9/26 overlaps) and bone mineral density (3/26 overlaps).
As described above, the prevalence of DMFS and denture use are not specific in nature and have complex relationships with various human traits. This most recent publication suggests that these dental health indicators may be influenced by a wide range of potential mechanisms or mediators. If you would like to learn more, you can check out all of the findings here:
Dental caries and periodontitis are preventable for most people. Good oral hygiene, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking are effective methods for protecting your dental health. If your genetics do put you at greater risk for developing gum disease, keeping up with regular oral hygiene practices is especially important.
You can also speak to your dentist about your genetic results. They may have more recommendations for maintaining healthy gums and strong teeth.
Are you interested in learning more about your genetic tendency for dental caries and periodontitis? You can login to your Genomelink dashboard to see this new genetic trait.