Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Cavities? All in Your Genes

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

Imagine a visit to the dentist where cavities and gum disease can be prevented by using gene therapy. Imagine your dentist being able to repair or regenerate your teeth using your own DNA. Such a future is not far away, predicts Harold C. Slavkin, dean at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry.

According to Slavkin, dentistry will rapidly evolve from dependency on mechanical and surgical solutions for treating disease to “bio” solutions, in which conditions are treated at a molecular level. For example, instead of using fillings to repair cavities, a dentist will some day modify the specific bacteria in a person that cause dental disease in the first place. A simple swab from inside the mouth will provide enough DNA to develop individualized dental treatments in the future.

“The mouth is a portal to the body,” said Slavkin. “Many systemic diseases and disorders manifest themselves in the mouth.” Several thousand structural and/or regulatory genes are required for the development and maintenance of oral, dental, and craniofacial cells, tissues and structure, said Slavkin. Variances within these multiple genes can lead to disease or disorders.

Future DNA-based oral diagnoses will certainly aid children who are born with genetic mutations that are not apparent at birth but show up during later stages of development, according to Slavkin. For instance, a gene mutation responsible for a rare disease called Papillon-Levere syndrome often causes children to lose all of their baby teeth by the age of four and all of their adult teeth by the age of 14 due to an abnormal inflammatory response to oral infections. In the future, using the child’s DNA sample to provide early identification of this syndrome, dentists would be able to intervene with bio-solutions before the teeth are lost.

“The interface between the human genome, information technology, and biotechnology will direct the future treatment of oral health in this new century,” said Slavkin.

Mature Life Features Copyright 2003

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 31, 2011 at 9:29 pm

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