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Genetic Link for Tooth Decay

New research suggests that variations within an individual’s taste pathway genes can impact their risk of dental decay.

There are numerous known factors that cause tooth decay, including the bacteria in the mouth, dental care routines, diet, the structure of the teeth, fluoride, salivary flow and the makeup of saliva.

Previous studies have considered the influence of genetics on taste preference and dietary habits. Taste Genes Associated with Dental Caries takes that discussion one step further, suggesting that genetic variation in taste pathway genes could be connected with an individual’s risk of suffering from tooth decay.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Dental Research, examined families’ biological samples and demographic data and clinically assessed the health of their mouth, including the amount of dental decay.

Multiple single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) assays for each gene were performed and analysed using transmission disequilibrium test (TDT) analysis (FBAT software) for the three stages of dental development first teeth, mixed dentition and adult teeth.

There were statistically significant connections between the taste genes TAS2R38 and TAS1R2 and the risk of decay or protection against it.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter said: “Although this is an early study, it could pave the way for some interesting breakthroughs. A large amount of a dentist’s time is spent dealing with dental decay. If we can tell in advance who is most at risk, then more preventive care can be given to protect those patients.”

Tooth decay is caused by the bacteria in plaque reaching with the sugars in our food and drinks to form acid that gradually dissolve the protective enamel coating of the teeth. Over time this leads to a cavity. Decay is a major cause of fillings and extractions in the UK.

For those concerned about their dental health, the National Dental Helpline (0845 063 1188) is available between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, and by email at helpline@dentalhealth.org. Staffed by fully qualified dental experts, the Helpline offers free, confidential and impartial advice and support on a wide range of oral health topics. Alternatively, visit the Foundation’s website at www.dentalhealth.org

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Editor’s Notes

For further information please contact the Foundation’s Press Office on pr@dentalhealth.org.uk or 01788 539 792.

Journal of Dental Research; September 2009: Taste Genes Associated with Dental Caries.

The British Dental Health Foundation is the UK’s leading oral health charity, with a 40–year track record of providing public information and influencing government policy. It maintains a free consumer advice service, an impartial and objective product accreditation scheme, publishes and distributes a wide range of literature for the profession and consumers, and runs National Smile Month each May, to promote greater awareness of the benefits of better oral health, and Mouth Cancer Action Month each November.

The Dental Helpline, which offers free impartial advice to consumers, can be contacted on 0845 063 1188 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Alternatively, they can be contacted by email on helpline@dentalhealth.org.uk

A series of ‘Tell Me About...’ leaflets covering topics such as caring for teeth, tooth decay and diet are also available.

The Foundation’s website can be found at www.dentalhealth.org

The Foundation also hosts two other websites: one for Mouth Cancer Action Month (www.mouthcancer.org) and other for National Smile Month (www.smilemonth.org).

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