While it may seem that genetics could determine one’s susceptibility to developing cavities and other oral health conditions, the American Dental Association explains that there’s no way to predict the onset of such cases through genetics alone. For instance, there’s no specific gene that has been identified that would cause periodontal gum disease. As such, environmental factors have a much greater impact, and these include smoking and/or diabetes and lifestyle habits.
Even so, when it comes to genetics and oral health, dentists can at least consider results from genetic testing when making decisions regarding one’s oral health. This is supported in a 2017 press release, issued by the Food and Drug Administration, emphasizing that it’s important for people to understand that “genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle.”
The genetic tests referred to in the release are direct-to-consumer, or DTC tests, marketed by 23andMe Personal Genome Service Genetic Health Risk (GHR). Authorized by the FDA, these tests are the first of their kind, and provide information on one’s predisposition to 10 common diseases or conditions. However, it must be reiterated that environmental and lifestyle components play a larger role.
Given this information, the ADA has made several important conclusions regarding genetics and oral health. First, many diseases are not inherited as a single gene defect. Rather, they manifest as a result of interactions among genes and the environment. This includes dental cavities and periodontal gum disease.
Second, there is some value in genetic tests, and results can be used in some dental applications—yet, never alone. To date, clinical measurements are the best way to determine if cavities are present and if there is evidence of gum disease. There is also some promise in combining genetic information, comorbidities (presence of diabetes, for instance) and environmental factors to enhance decision-making regarding one’s dental treatment. However, complete evaluations and x-rays continue to be the best methods for identifying dental diseases.
At Grateful Dental, Dr. Leia Porcaro continues to place a high value on preventative dentistry, because it is a reliable way to detect oral health diseases and conditions early. Furthermore, it creates a basis in which to make future decisions about one’s oral health treatment.
Whether you are searching for a dental home, or if it’s been some time since you’ve visited a dentist, call Grateful Dental for the comprehensive dental care that you need.