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Researchers conduct genome analysis for link between dental caries and periodontitis

For the first time, researchers have been able to pinpoint genes that can have an effect on oral health. (Image: Anusorn Nakdee/Shutterstock)

Thu. 18. July 2019


UMEÅ, Sweden: In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the Institute of Odontology at Umeå University in Sweden and the Bristol Dental School in the UK have collaborated to get a clearer picture regarding what role our genes play when it comes to oral health. Collecting meta-data from thousands of patients, the team was able to identify 47 new genes with connections to tooth decay.

According to the researchers, the role genes play in terms of oral health has been largely understudied, partly because complex diseases, such as tooth decay and periodontitis, require large studies to draw firm conclusions.

In order to gather the amount of information needed, researchers combined data from nine international clinical studies with 62,000 participants together with data on self-reported dental health from the UK Biobank including 461,000 participants. Ingegerd Johansson, Senior Professor at the Institute of Odontology at Umeå University, who led the research, said, “The study makes it clear that teeth are part of the body. Among other things, we can see that there seems to be a causal link between risk factors for cardiovascular disease and tooth decay.

Analyse of the data was able to pinpoint 47 new genes with connections to tooth decay, with the research confirming a previously known immune-related gene to also be linked to periodontitis. Among the genes that could be linked to tooth decay are those that help form teeth and the jawbone, those with protective functions in saliva and those which affect the bacteria found on the teeth.

Using a technique called Mendelian randomisation, researchers also looked at the genetic link between cardiovascular and metabolic health factors such as smoking, obesity, education and personality to try and understand connections with dental health. Stating there may also a causal link between decay and some cardiovascular-metabolic risk factors.

The study, titled “Genome-wide analysis of dental caries and periodontitis combining clinical and self-reported data”, was published on 24 June in Nature Communications.

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