Dental Genetic Risk And How It Affects Your Oral Health

DNA is an amazing thing. That is an understatement. Your DNA can tell you what diseases you may be at high risk for so you can take action before they develop. Therefore, your DNA may save your life, prolong your life, or at the very least, provide a better quality of life. For instance, women who carry a harmful variation of the BRCA1 or BRCA 2 gene are at a much higher risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or both. The same for men who carry those genes. They too have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, and both men and women who have inherited the gene mutations have an increased risk of developing other cancers, as well. Genetic testing allows the patient medical options years before the disease may develop.  Today, the dental field is also utilizing DNA testing to identify dental genetic risk. Dental researchers are aggressively studying genetics as a way to ascertain the risk their patients may have of developing oral health diseases so they can treat, or even help prevent, them before they develop.

Epigenetics and Dentistry

Your genes may soon determine your own, individual, personalized dental treatment. The Australian Dental Journal reported that epigenetics is being used to study the importance of genes in oral health to determine a patients risk for developing certain oral health diseases. If certain markers are found, personalized treatment can be developed and carried out for each patient.

But what is epigenetics? Epigenetics is the study of chemical changes and reactions that take place in the genome, as an organism develops and ages. According to the journal, the Human Genome Project has increased the role of epigenetics in medical and biological research. The Human Genome Project was performed on the international level as a collaborative research program.  The goal was to learn, map, and understand every gene that a human being is made of. All of the genes together have been labeled our “genome.” A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, consisting of all the information required to build, and keep that organism functioning.

Environmental factors interplay with dental genetic risk

Gene’s respond to environmental factors such as what we breathe, what we touch, the sun, as well as stress, diet, toxins, and other factors, and can be changed by any one or all of them. Your health depends on the way your genes react to these factors. In response to specific oral microbes your genes switch on and off. One researcher likened the human genetic code (DNA) to an orchestra. It contains every instrument it needs to play beautiful music. The epigenetic code is the conductor. It tells which instruments how to respond at any given moment, whether to play, play loud, soft, fast, slow, or remain silent. The way your genes react to outside and inner factors can determine the difference between a healthy or unhealthy body and oral environment.  Research indicates that it may be possible to change when genes are switched on and off in order to prevent or reduce the impact of oral health diseases.

The Study

The Australian research team studied environmental and dental genetic risks on dental health.  Our genes play a role in our dental health as well as our overall health, and are precursors to oral health diseases. Every person does not have the same exact oral micro-organisms inhabiting their oral cavity. Each person’s microbiota that affects oral health will react with that person’s DNA producing an individualized result. Now there is the ability to develop an epigenetic profile of patients by combining their genome, the oral microbes found in their mouth, and their epigenetic profile to attain personalized dental care. Epigenetics can also be used to study the genetic responses caused by other oral health issues. One common oral disease is periodontal disease which is on the rise and has been linked to other systemic diseases. Epigenetics can also be used to study those factors that lead to the development and progression of oral cancers.

Learn more about your personal dental genetic risk

Aside from providing dependable general and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is a former adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from all surrounding communities. To schedule a consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.