Study finds substantial genetic basis for risk of periodontal disease

November 29, 2000

New research provides further evidence that a person's genes play a major role in the onset and severity of periodontal disease. The study, published in a new issue of the Journal of Periodontology released today, concluded that approximately half of the variance in periodontal disease in the population can be attributed to genetic differences.

The study examined periodontal health in 64 pairs of identical and 53 pairs of fraternal twins. The study found that between 48 and 59 percent of the differences in measures of periodontal disease, such as attachment loss and probing depth, could be attributed to genetics. When correlating eight different clinical measures for periodontal disease among the two types of twins, all eight measures were statistically significant in the identical twins, while only two measures were significantly greater than zero in the fraternal twins.

"Periodontal disease is multifactorial, meaning that susceptibility involves genetic and environmental factors," explained John C. Gunsolley, D.D.S., M.S., one of the authors of the study. "The basic question of what portion of periodontal disease risk among individuals is genetic versus environmental is important because it may lead to a better understanding of disease susceptibility. Identification of people at high risk for periodontal disease before they even display symptoms may provide new avenues for treatment."

Gunsolley cautions that there are likely a number of genes that play a role in susceptibility, and these may differ in different races and ethnic groups. "I hope future studies will determine the genetic determinates underlying the risk for periodontal disease," he said.

Michael McGuire, D.D.S., president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), agrees. "I'm pleased that the role of genetics in oral health continues to be studied. I'm convinced that genetic research, such as the Human Genome Project, is going to revolutionize the way we treat diseases in general, including periodontal disease."

A referral to a periodontist and free brochures including one titled Spread the Word: Periodontal Care Is for Everyone are available by calling 800-FLOSS-EM or by using the Request Form on the AAP's Web site at www.perio.org.
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The American Academy of Periodontology is a 7,500-member association of dental professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants. Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.

For more information about this press release or a copy of the study Evidence of a Substantial Genetic Basis for Risk of Adult Periodontitis, contact Amanda Widtfeldt at 312/573-3243 or amanda@perio.org.

American Academy of Periodontology

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