A new study suggests that dental caries is influenced by factors within the taste pathway genes.
Caries occurrence and progression is known to be influenced by a complex interplay of both environmental and genetic factors, with numerous contributing factors having been identified including bacterial flora, dietary habits, fluoride exposure, oral hygiene, salivary flow, salivary composition and tooth structure.
Previous reports have characterised the influence of the genetic variation on taste preferences and dietary habits.
But in this latest study, published in the Journal of Dental Research and entitled ‘Taste Genes Associated with Dental Caries’, the scientists suggest that genetic variation in taste pathway genes (TAS2R38, TAS1R2, GNAT3) may be associated with dental caries risk and/or protection.
In the study, families were recruited by the Center for Oral Health Research in Appalachia (COHRA) for collection of biological samples, demographic data and clinical assessment of oral health including caries scores.
Multiple single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) assays for each gene were performed and analysed using transmission disequilibrium test (TDT) analysis (FBAT software) for three dentition groups: primary, mixed, and permanent.
Statistically significant associations were seen in TAS2R38 and TAS1R2 for caries risk and/or protection.
The Journal of Dental Research’s editor-in-chief, William Giannobile, says: ‘This work is significant in that it identifies key genes that may explain the susceptibilities of some patients to tooth decay.

‘Although an early study, this breakthrough on taste pathways and genes demonstrates how patient preferences that are genetically predetermined may put patients at risk for disease.’
Lead researcher Steven Wendell worked with Melissa Brown, Margaret Cooper, Rebecca DeSensi, Mary Marazita, Xiaojing Wang and Robert Weyant, all from the University of Pittsburgh; and Richard Crout and Daniel McNeil from West Virginia University.