Predictions of Periodontitis

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) half of all Americans over the age of 30 suffer from periodontitis, the advanced form or periodontal disease.  That’s nearly 65 million people with the inflammatory disease that affects the soft and hard structures that support your teeth.  In its early stages, the condition is referred to as gingivitis and usually produces swollen and red gums due to inflammation in response to the presence of harmful bacteria.  As the condition progresses, the gums pull away from the tooth and the supporting gum tissue is destroyed, causing loss of bone and eventually tooth loss.  The most advanced form of the disease, chronic periodontitis, generally develops slowly, making it more evident in adulthood.  And while bacterial infection is the root of all forms of periodontal disease, there are several risk factors that can influence the severity of the disease, including smoking, lack of adequate home care, age, diet, health history, and medications.  Additionally, there is a genetic component that makes individuals more susceptible to developing periodontitis, meaning anyone can be at risk.  Even if you brush at least twice a day, floss regularly, and visit your dentist for check-ups and necessary treatments, you can still develop gum disease.  Wouldn’t it be great if somehow you could detect, in advance, if you were one of the unlucky people who carries this gene? Well, thanks to a new development, you can.

A recent Dental Tribune article describes a new line of genetic tests from Interleukin Genetics that can predict a patient’s likelihood of developing severe periodontal disease.  PerioPredict measures variations in genes for interleukin-1, a key mediator of inflammation.  The test consists of a simple cheek swab, making it easy to perform by a dental professional during a routine visit to the dentist.  The samples are then sent to lab for analysis with results available in about two weeks.  The test will be on the market next month and the makers are hopeful that it will allow dental professionals to identify individuals who are susceptible to periodontal disease early enough to avoid full onset of the disease.

A number of research studies have connected periodontal disease to a variety of serious, chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.  While the connection isn’t fully understood, scientists believe that inflammation may be the common thread linking them all.  There is a wide range of treatments available for gum disease, depending on the severity and time of diagnosis.  Scaling and root planing allows the infected surface to be cleaned while a variety of surgical procedures treat severe conditions and are often used for cosmetic purposes.  Just like most health conditions, early detection of periodontitis is critical and with this latest development, hopefully the battle against oral disease isn’t over yet.

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