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The Future of Dentistry- Epigenetics

scientist microscopeSometime in the next 10 years your average visit to the dentist may include a detailed look at your genetics before procedures are recommended.

In a new study released in the Australian Dental Journal, researchers from the University of Adelaide’s School of Dentistry stated that the future of dentistry will include the use of epigenetics as it relates to oral health.

Co-author of study Associate Professor Toby Hughes says that epigenetics has much to offer in the future treatment of dental diseases such as periodontitis and gingivitis.

“Our genetic code, or DNA, is like an orchestra — it contains all of the elements we need to function — but the epigenetic code is essentially the conductor, telling which instruments to play or stay silent, or how to respond at any given moment,” said Associate Professor Hughes.

In biology epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene activity that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. Additionally, epigenetics can be used to describe the study of long-term changes in the transcriptional potential of cells which are not inherently heritable.

Epigenetic factors in the dental field may help to facilitate healthy and unhealthy systems affected by the current local environment. Dentists can gauge the type and level of oral microbes, which can help them create individualized dental care regimens.

This discovery comes as a result of the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2007 which has given greater focus of epigenetics in medical fields.

“We know that our genome plays a key role in our dental development, and in a range of oral diseases; we know that the oral microbiota also play a key role in the state of our oral health; we now have the potential to develop an epigenetic profile of a patient, and use all three of these factors to provide a more personalized level of care.”

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