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Study reveals oral microbiome’s pivotal role in tooth loss risk


Thu. 28 September 2023


By Rehma Irfan

In a groundbreaking study emerging from Japan, researchers have cast a spotlight on the pivotal role played by the oral microbiome within an individual's genetic makeup in the development of periodontitis, a severe gum infection notorious for its involvement in tooth loss and other associated ailments.

Their discoveries are set to usher in a paradigm shift in the approaches to diagnose and treat periodontitis, a condition characterised by inflammation and weakening of the structures supporting teeth, all of which is attributed to bacterial infection.

The oral cavity serves as a habitat for a diverse array of microorganisms, among them bacteria that usually maintain a mutually beneficial or neutral relationship with their human host but can, under certain circumstances, trigger a variety of diseases.

The formation of bacterial biofilms has long been associated with the emergence of infections such as periodontitis. Given the limitations of current treatment options, there exists an urgent need to enhance our comprehension of the disease's initiation and progression.

In a recent publication in the esteemed International Journal of Environment and Public Health Research, the researchers led by Assistant Professor Naoki Toyama from Okayama University, Japan, found important facts that could give new directions for the treatment of periodontitis.

The unique physiological makeup of individuals plays a central role in the development of infections. Genetic variations among individuals contribute to varying susceptibility levels to specific pathogens and the likelihood of developing particular diseases.

In their study, Dr. Toyama and his colleagues focused on the microbes associated with periodontitis and the host's genetic factors that may facilitate its onset.

Multiple prior studies on periodontitis have hinted at a link between the disease's development and the nature of the oral microbiome and genetic polymorphism, the most prevalent form of genetic variation among individuals. However, none had simultaneously evaluated the significance of these dual risk factors in disease development.

Consequently, the team embarked on a cross-sectional study that encompassed genotypic analysis of 14,539 participants and the collection of saliva samples from 385 individuals. Ultimately, 22 individuals were retained for statistical analysis, categorised into periodontitis and control groups based on their periodontal health.

The team's findings revealed a significant difference in the diversity of microbial communities, indicating the ratio between regional and local species diversity, between the periodontitis and control groups. Furthermore, they attributed the presence of specific bacterial species, such as P. gingivalis, and bacterial families like Lactobacillaceae and Desulfobulbaceae, to periodontitis.

In contrast, they found no conclusive association between genetic polymorphism and the development of periodontitis. Drawing from these insights, the researchers concluded that our oral microbiome exerts a more substantial influence on periodontitis status than our genetic makeup.

Regarding the implications of these findings for current clinical practices, Dr. Toyama asserts that the findings linking periodontitis prevalence more closely to the composition of an individual's oral microbiome than their genetic identity should prompt clinicians to prioritize microbiome assessment over other factors during routine periodontal examinations. This, in turn, paves the way for tailored treatment strategies for periodontitis.

These findings underscore the significance of regular dental hygiene practices in averting the onset of periodontitis. Patients and healthcare providers are encouraged to embrace these revelations, as they herald a new era in the battle against tooth loss and periodontal diseases.


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