Genetic Testing in the Dental Office

genetic-testingDo you have any family or friends who have had genetic testing? While a decade ago, having genetic testing done may have been less common, today it is something that more people are turning to for a variety of reasons. If you have signs of a disease caused by gene changes, have testing done may help your physician confirm the diagnosis and help determine the best treatment. Some choose to have testing when pregnant to detect if their unborn child may have certain diseases. Some doctors may test your genes to see how your body reacts to and processes drugs so they can choose the best medications for you.

Genetic testing has recently emerged in the dental world. There are gene variations that may give someone a greater risk of developing moderate to severe periodontal disease. There is now a saliva test available that when processed by the laboratory can determine if you have any genetic variations of an inflammatory mediator called Interleukin 1. A higher than normal amount of bacteria in the mouth can trigger the production of IL 1 which in turn triggers cells that destroy bone and soft tissue in the mouth. A person’s genetic makeup determines how much of the Interleukin 1 is produced in the presence of bacteria. The more IL 1, the more loss of bone and soft tissue.


Why is it helpful to look at the IL 1 gene site? It appears that the presence of bacteria alone might not dictate the severity of periodontal disease. We sometimes see patients who have a lot of plaque and calculus but not much bone loss or soft tissue breakdown. Conversely, we sometimes see patients who have good home care and minimal plaque and calculus, but have loss of bone and soft tissue. In these situations, having testing to determine the genetic makeup of the IL 1 gene site would be helpful.   If your test is positive,  you may need to see you dentist more frequently for cleanings and to monitor the condition of your bone and soft tissue.