A new study that will attempt to use DNA to detect and predict the risk of gum disease has been commissioned in the USA.
The breakthrough research, to be conducted by the University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry, alongside a third-party health company, will take place over the course of one year and collect genetic information from around 4,000 people.
Should positive results arise from the test, they could prove very important for the preventive care in fighting serious oral health complications.
The issue of DNA testing has proved controversial in the UK in recent years.
Tests now exist that can detect common disorders such as diabetes and heart disease, but may people fear discrimination by insurance companies.
People in the USA are already protected by The Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act of 2008, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment.
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, says an early diagnosis of gum disease could go far beyond improving a person’s oral health.
Dr Carter said: ‘To have the capability to predict gum disease at an early stage, or even before it happens, obviously has remarkable advantages to our oral health.
‘At one stage or another in our lives, 19 out of 20 of us will have some form of gum disease and as the major cause of tooth loss in adults a preventive measure such as this would go a long way in making sure we keep our teeth for life.
‘Gum disease can be extremely serious if left untreated and can be the cause of many health problems outside of the mouth. Diabetes, heart problems, strokes and pre-term births have all been found share a link with gum disease, so any research into the prevention of such a disease is very welcome.
‘Being the cause of so many health problems, there is also a considerable long term financial benefit to stamping out such a potentially harmful disease. Cutting the risk of gum disease could save the government millions in costly treatments.
‘Equally important is the need for people to adopt a good oral health routine. Our National Smile Month campaign, which runs up to 15 June, is our annual reminder to everyone about the need to care for our teeth. Prevention remains the best way that everyone can look after their teeth for life.’
The results of the initial genetic test will be then combined with the two leading factors of diabetes and smoking.
Researchers will also examine rates of tooth survival against what kind of dental treatment plans people have. All these results will give the researchers enough precious data in order to see how they correlate.