Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Posts Tagged ‘boomer health

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

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 31, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Health Linked to Oral Bacteria

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

Dentists can tell a lot more about a patient’s health than merely whether they need a cavity filled. Researchers have found that oral bacteria in some instances have been associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and the birth of pre-term babies, according to Connie Hastings Drisko at Kentucky’s University of Louisville School of Dentistry.

The presence of antibodies to certain oral bacteria identified in the amniotic fluid and fetal-cord blood suggests that mothers with periodontal disease may be six to seven times more likely to have a pre-term, low-birth-weight baby.

Other associations between oral and overall health include:

— Heart Disease and Stroke: Data are emerging to support an associaotn with gum disease.

— Diabetes: Diabetics are at significantly higher risk for severe gum disease. When exposed to the same type of bacteria as non-diabetics, the gum tissue of diabetics becomes much more inflamed. Drisko said there are two potential pathways for severe gum disease and diabetes mellitus to co-exist. It is known that the treatment of diabetes will slow down the progression of gum disease and that diabetes is more easily controlled if the periodontal disease is treated.

“Dentists are well-versed in handling oral-health conditions, and currently help screen patients with diabetes,” said Drisko. “In the future, dentists may have an even more important role in screening for other conditions, such as heart disease and stroke, as the link is strengthened between oral and overall health.”

Mature Life Features Copyright 2002

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm