Like many common chronic disorders, periodontitis (gum disease) involves an inflammatory response that varies from one individual to another. Typically the progression and severity of the disease depends upon the interaction of genetic and behavioral risk factors. Until recently, there was no reliable way to identify individuals who had an increased genetic risk for these diseases. It is now possible, using the  PST Genetic Susceptibility Test, to identify individuals who are at genetic risk for gum disease. The PST analyzes DNA from a buccal (cheek) swab. There is no drawing of blood necessary for this test. Even the most thorough family history and clinical examination cannot reliably identify individuals with a genetic susceptibility for this disease. This can only be accomplished by analyzing DNA for a specific genetic marker that has proven to be associated with a more severe form of gum disease. Clinical research has demonstrated that individuals with this genetic marker are at risk for developing more severe disease and losing teeth. 

Clinicians have recognized for years that some individuals accumulate a lot of plaque and calculus, but experience little loss of periodontal support. Other patients seem to have really clean mouths, but experience extensive bone loss. Their disease is not so much related to the quantity of bacteria as to some other innate factor. While the presence of certain bacteria have been correlated with some forms of periodontal disease, other forms of the disease are not so clearly identified with specific bacteria.

Scientific reports conclude that those individuals with a positive PST genotype are approximately 3 times more likely to lose teeth than individuals who are genotype negative. When combined with smoking, susceptible individuals are almost 8 times more likely to lose their teeth. The combination of a genetic predisposition and smoking behavior have explained greater than 80% of the severe disease present in study populations. It is estimated that approximately 30% of the population may have this genetic marker.

The good news is that a positive PST result does not mean you will necessarily develop severe gum disease. Gum disease is both preventable and treatable. Periodontists, just like physicians, need to clinically diagnose the level of disease activity and assess risk for each individual patient. This provides the basis for an effective treatment plan, therapy and the supportive care necessary to maintain oral health.

This new innovative technology could prove to be highly beneficial as a screening tool in predicting disease potential. Prevention (and perhaps gene manipulation) could then be better tailored to individual needs. We look forward to any questions you might have regarding this advance in periodontal diagnosis.