Gum Disease Test Q&A
How did you discover this gene?
Dr. Newman: The scientists at Medical Science Systems have been discovering and researching the cause of gum disease for many years. Since gum disease is an infection, we looked to find out whether or not people have a different response to infection or plaque around their teeth. We determined that infection response is genetically controlled. So we went to some of the world’s leading scientists and ended up with a collaborative arrangement with Dr. Gordon Duff at the University of Sheffield in England. He is a world-renowned scientist who studies different aspects of inflammation. It’s through our work with Dr. Duff that we discovered this genetic marker for susceptibility to gum disease.
Then you came up with an easy way to find out if you have it, right?
Dr. Newman: Yes, we did. It is extremely easy. It requires a little finger stick to get two drops of blood, which go on a little post card. The post card is then sent to a licensed central laboratory. The test results are received by the doctor as well as the patient in about two weeks.
Who carries the gene?
Dr. Newman: About 30 percent of the population carry the gene.
What is it about the gene that causes gum disease?
Dr. Newman: The gene tells us how responsive, how susceptible you’re going to be to the plaque that grows on your teeth. If you carry the gene, your body is very susceptible to the normal plaque that grows on your teeth. So what happens is plaque grows on the teeth. If you’re one of those people who has a super response to plaque, you’re going to get a lot of inflammation. If you get a lot of inflammation, you can end up with gum disease.
If you carry the gene, how high is your risk for getting gum disease compared to the general population?
Dr. Newman: Carrying the gene gives somebody a six to 19 times higher chance for getting gum disease. I would like to put that into perspective. We all change our lifestyle around the fact that high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. Most studies have shown that high cholesterol gives you a two and a half times higher chance of having heart disease. Whereas if you have the gene for gum disease, it’s called the PST gene, it gives you a six to 19 times higher chance of having gum disease progress to become serious.
Should everybody have the test done if it’s that simple?
Dr. Newman: Just about every person who has any signs of gum disease should have the test done, because it’s a once in a lifetime test. It tells you and the doctor which road you’re going to be going on. Are you going to be on the resistance road to gum disease, or are you going down the road that’s going to make you look over your shoulder and be very cautious about brushing your teeth and getting regular care?
How would your treatment differ if you find out you do carry the gene?
Dr. Newman: What’s really good about this is that the treatment procedures themselves don’t differ at all. It’s the intensity and the frequency of the procedures. In fact, if you have early signs of gum disease, and you turn out to be genetically susceptible, what you have to do is simply turn up the attention and intensity of your own personal oral hygiene care as well as go to the dentist more regularly. If you do that, gum disease is treatable and preventable.
How early do you have to get it?
Dr. Newman: You can get the test at any age because the genetic make-up that you have is given to you at birth. So you can get the test done at any age of life. Usually adults are the people who begin to show signs of gum disease, and that’s probably the best time to get it. So after age 35 for most people.
How early do you need to catch gum disease before you can do something about it?
Dr. Newman: The earlier the better.
Is it going to be a part of everybody’s routine exam some day?
Dr. Newman: We believe so. This test along with other tests will help doctors and patients know what they’re made of and what they can do about various time bombs that lurk out there for them. We think this will be a part of regular checkups and tests. We think there’s a very valuable place for this for children of people who have gum disease as well. Knowing that your child is susceptible to gum disease will alert you and them to be vigilant and to institute good prevention measures, which have the best chance of working before it even starts.
Any risks or anybody you would say shouldn’t have it done?
Dr. Newman: There are no known risks to having your finger pricked to get blood tests. There has been some concern about insurance and about the government knowing what your genetic make-up is and things like that. Last year, President Clinton signed a bill which prevented employers from discriminating against any information derived from genetic testing. Many states in the United States have passed independent laws which strongly prohibit insurance companies, employers and government agencies from discriminating. In Europe, they are extremely strict about discrimination.
What does this mean for us down the road?
Dr. Newman: This means we have an opportunity to catch a very common disease, which has implications in causing heart problems, premature birth weight and perhaps other systemic diseases that we don’t know about. This will help us become healthier and live a better life and have our smiles forever.
Source: Ivanhoe Broadcast News