Genetic techniques and dental care: What is the connection?

Research has indicated that genetics could play a major role in the diagnosis and treatment of oral diseases in the future. Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, explores the connection between our genetic code, or DNA, with possible future treatment and prevention efforts for oral disease.

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Dentistry is changing daily, and soon, genetics could be playing a major role in the diagnosis and treatment of oral diseases. A thorough assessment may soon require a detailed look at how genes in a patient's body are being switched on or off.

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Researchers from Australia theorize about the current and future use of the field of epigenetics as it relates to oral health.(1) The authors believe that epigenetics play a major role in the future treatment and prevention of oral disease. The term "epigenetic" refers to "all heritable changes in gene expression and chromatin organization that are independent of the DNA sequence itself. Epigenome provides instructions and regulates the functional aspects of all the genes." The authors discuss that our genetic code, or DNA, is like an orchestra, and it encompasses all of the basics we need to function.

The epigenetic code is basically the conductor, telling which instruments to play or stay silent, or how to respond at any given moment.(2) Epigenetics is at the center of modern medicine because epigenetic changes, unlike DNA sequence which is the same in every cell, can occur as a result of dietary and other environmental exposure.(3)

Researchers found that epigenetic marks on DNA, chemical marks other than the DNA sequence, change over a person's lifetime, and that the degree of change is similar among family members. It is suggested that overall genome health is heritable and that epigenetic changes occurring over one's lifetime may explain why disease susceptibility increases with age.(3)

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The Adelaide study suggests that epigenetic factors could be used to determine an individual's state of health, or even influence how their genes behave. While we cannot change the fundamental genetic code, we may be able to change when genes are switched on and off.

This team of researchers at the University of Adelaide that has been studying the primary genetic and environmental influences on dental development and oral health. They feel that oral heath care can benefit from new research in this area, and uncover opportunities for diagnosis, treatment and prevention. The genome affects dental development, and oral diseases, and the oral microbiota are also factors in the state of oral health. Now that it is possible to construct an epigenetic profile of a patient, was can provide a more personalized level of care.(2)

Other oral health objectives for the study of epigenetics include the inflammation and immune responses that lead to periodontitis, and the development and progression of oral cancers.

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Also in the area of oral health and genetics, PerioPredict is a simple, one-time test shown to detect patients at increased risk for severe periodontal disease based on their genetics.(4) Genetic variation, now identifiable with PerioPredict, is one of the most prevalent risk factors for periodontal disease.(5)

In fact, the genetic variation is found in about 1/3 of the U.S. adult population. Stay tuned to future newsletters for more on this test. In the meantime, visit the website for more information.(4)

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The bottom line: DNA Is Not Destiny. The new science of epigenetics rewrites the rules of disease, heredity, and identity.(6)

References
1. SD Williams, TE Hughes, CJ Adler, AH Brook, GC Townsend. Epigenetics: a new frontier in dentistry. Australian Dental Journal, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/adj.12155. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/adj.12155/abstract.
2. Science Daily. University of Adelaide. Genetic techniques have role in future of dental care. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140306095115.htm.
3. Science Daily. Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Our Genome Changes over Lifetime, And May Explain Many 'Late-onset' Diseases. 2008. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080624174849.htm.
4. www.periopredict.com. Interleukin Genetics, Inc., a CLIA certified genetics laboratory.
5. Giannobile WV, Braun TM, Caplis AK, Doucette-Stamm L, Duff GW, Kornman KS. Patient Stratification for Preventive Care in Dentistry [published online ahead of print June 10, 2013]. J Dent Res. 2013; 92(8):694-701. doi: 10.1177/0022034513492336. Accessed August 17, 2013.
6. Watters E. DNA Is Not Destiny. Discover. NOVEMBER 2006. http://discovermagazine.com/2006/nov/cover.

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Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS

To read previous RDH eVillage FOCUS articles by Maria Perno Goldie, click here.

To read more about genetics and dental hygiene, click here.

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