Gum Disease and Genes

Your Genes May Help Cause Gum Disease


Researchers have known for some time that there is often a connection between gum disease and your genes. The genes are not present in every case, but the presence of genes for gum disease does increase the likelihood of developing periodontitis. Genetic gum disease can also mean that periodontitis takes on a more aggressive form.


Genetically Inherited Diseases

Researchers have known for about a century that periodontitis seems to travel in families. While other people who have no family history of the gum disease do get it, there does seem to be a genetic basis for it in more than 50 percent of the cases.


It is also known that just because someone has the genes for it that it does not mean that they will get periodontitis. Although many factors are known to increase the likelihood of it, it appears that there are other factors that remain unknown. Even though it may be in your family, it also does not mean that you have the gene – but knowing whether you do or not may bring some relief.


It seems that while some genes cause some people to get the disease, there are also some genes that help to prevent it – even when they have the gene for it. This means that much more research still needs to be performed. So far, it is believed that there are more than 40 different genes involved.


Why DNA Genetic Testing Is Recommended

Periodontitis is very common among adults over 30. In fact, about half of the adults in the United States have the more serious form of gum disease. This is equal to about 64.7 million people. This gum disease is the primary cause of tooth loss today.


Periodontitis comes in two forms: chronic periodontitis, and aggressive. The chronic form spreads slowly but can be faster at times. With the aggressive form, it usually starts before the age of 30 and spreads fast. The individual with it will usually lose some of their teeth, or all of them, rather quickly.  


Knowing that an individual has a strong likelihood of developing a particular disease because of genetic testing enables them to be especially watchful for its symptoms. It will also enable dentists to design a custom treatment for it.


Having the genes for periodontitis raises the likelihood of getting the disease by a factor of 20. Both early onset periodontitis and the aggressive forms are genetically based.


Genetic Screening May Also Help Save a Life


Over the past few years, researchers have concluded that the same bacteria that cause gum disease and inflammation is also behind the development of many diseases. These diseases are very serious and include cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, and more.


This makes it even more important for an individual who may be genetically predisposed toward periodontitis to be sure to watch for it and stop its development as soon as possible.


Gum disease starts slowly and most people do not realize that it is already affecting their body's main organs.


Gum disease starts out with a milder form called gingivitis. At this early stage about the only symptoms that will be noticeable are bleeding of the gums and red or swollen gums. In most cases, all that is needed to remove it is to brush your teeth twice daily and floss.


Those who have the genes for it, however, may not be able to prevent or remove it so easily. Even in the early stages, it can be more difficult to treat. Getting genetic testing early can enable a dentist to be ready to treat the patient with a customized plan, enabling the problem to be removed sooner without unnecessary delay.


The Symptoms of Periodontitis

As gingivitis progresses, it slowly becomes periodontitis. As it does, you will notice some or all of the following symptoms of periodontitis:


  • Receding gums

  • Pus forming at the gum line

  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth - forming pockets

  • Spaces developing between teeth

  • Persistent bad breath

  • Teeth that are becoming loose


Key Risk Factors


In addition to the possibility of a genetic reason, there are also several other risk factors that can promote periodontitis. They include:


  • Not exercising good oral health – this is the primary reason

  • Smoking or using tobacco of any kind – this is another powerful cause.

  • Heavy drinking of alcohol

  • Diabetes

  • Medications

  • Pregnancy


If you suspect that you might have genetic gum disease, you can get DNA testing for it at the offices of Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board-certified Periodontist. He has dental offices in the Carrollton, TX or Grapevine, TX areas. In addition to genetic testing, he can also treat dental problems caused by periodontitis. For more information about his services, or to set up an appointment, you can call his office today at (817) 756-8578.


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