The Human Genome Project (HGP) was one of the largest and most significant undertakings in human history. It involved an international research effort to sequence and map all human genes, collectively known as the genome. Since the project’s completion in 2007, epigenetics (the study of how genes contribute to healthy and unhealthy states within the body, have played a vital role in medical and dental research. According to researchers from the University of Adelaide’s School of Dentistry, the study of biological reactions in your mouth could change the way we approach dental health care in the future.
Microorganisms in Your Mouth
You might not be surprised to learn that biology plays a vital role in dental health and dental diseases. For instance, the most common dental health issues, like tooth decay and gum disease, are products of overwhelming numbers of oral bacteria. In the case of gum disease, the leading cause of adult tooth loss, certain bacteria (mainly Porphyromonas gingivalis) manipulate your immune system and instigate excessive swelling in your gum tissues. Since inflammation is meant to be a biological defense mechanism, researchers have long been curious as to how the mouth germ hijacks your body’s immune system.
The On-Off Switch
When your body detects invading microbes, your immune system kicks into action to drive them out before infection can set in. Since rampant swelling can damage soft body tissues, your immune system also produces regulatory cells (called T-cells) that tell it when to stand down. P. gingivalis survive in your gums by producing molecules that allow them to evade your body’s defenses, and the germs’ chronic presence leads to unchecked swelling as your body continues to hunt them. Patients with severe, chronic/aggressive gum disease typically exhibit a deficiency in regulatory T-cells, so the inflammation continues until your gums and underlying jawbone are destroyed by inflammatory gum disease.
Gene Control for Good Dental Health
Your epigenetic code dictates how the various systems in your body work, such as what genes are turned on and which are turned off at any given time. By studying how epigenetics affects the biological reactions in your mouth, dental researchers hope to one day be able to prevent, diagnose, and treat gum disease and other dental health issues at the genetic level.
About Your Southlake Dentists:
As a native Texan, Dr. Gregory Wright opened his private practice in Southlake, TX in 1992. He and Dr. Victoria Heron are happily accepting new patients from Southlake, Grapevine, Keller, Trophy Club, Colleyville, and all surrounding communities. To learn more, call our office today at (817) 481-7999.