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Genome-wide analysis finds genetic link between oral health and cardiovascular- metabolic factors

By Dental Tribune International
July 30, 2019

UMEÅ, Sweden: Researchers from the Institute of Odontology at Umeå University in Sweden collaborated with the Bristol Dental School in the UK, in the largest study of its kind, in order to improve our understanding on the role our genes in oral health. The team collected meta-data from thousands of patients and was able to identify 47 new genes with connections to tooth decay. Also, they used Mendelian randomisation to find a genetic link between oral health and cardiovascular- metabolic factors

According to the 2016 Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study, dental caries in permanent teeth and periodontitis were the leading and 11th most prevalent causes of disease worldwide in 2016. Another study in 2015 estimated the global cost of dental diseases to be more than 540 billion US dollars. Even after knowing that the genetic contribution to oral health outcomes and the heritability of dental caries and periodontitis happens to be as high as 50%, the nature of this contribution remains poorly characterised. We know that an increased understanding of genetic factors can improve our knowledge of the aetiology and clinical management of oral diseases, yet the role of genes in oral health remains understudied. One of the reasons for this is that the complex nature of tooth decay and periodontitis requires extensive studies to draw firm conclusions.

Researchers, in order to fulfil the large data requirement, took the data from nine international clinical studies with 62,000 participants and merged it with the data on self-reported dental health from the UK Biobank, involving 461,000 participants. Ingegerd Johansson, Senior Professor at the Institute of Odontology, the lead researcher at Umeå University, said, “The study makes it clear that teeth are part of the body. Among other things, we can see that there seems to be a causal link between risk factors for cardiovascular disease and tooth decay.”

The data analysis could identify 47 new genetic loci with connections to tooth decay. The research also confirmed a previously known immune-related gene to be linked to periodontitis. The genes linked to tooth decay included those that help form teeth and the jawbone, those with protective functions in saliva and those which affect the bacteria found on the teeth.

The researchers used a technique called Mendelian randomisation, to find a genetic link between oral health and cardiovascular- metabolic risk factors such as smoking, obesity, education and personality. They stated that there might be a causal link between decay and some cardiovascular-metabolic risk factors.

The study, titled “Genome-wide analysis of dental caries and periodontitis combining clinical and self-reported data”, was published on 24 June in Nature Communications.

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