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Caries is not only caused by bacteria: genetic mutations are the ones to blame

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Posted March 31, 2017

Even taking good care of your teeth may not be enough – some protection, made possible by correct genes, is needed for healthy teeth. Image credit: Daisy Romwall via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Many people take care of their teeth very carefully and still develop caries, while others are not so particular about hygiene and maintain healthier mouth. Why is it? Scientists from the University of Zurich demonstrated that it is not only bacteria that are causing trouble – it is our mutated genes as well.

Enamel is supposed to protect our teeth from harmful bacteria. Bacteria itself is inevitable, but if enamel, which forms through mineralization of specific enamel proteins, is doing its job properly tooth decay should not start. At least that is the theory. But some genes, as this new study shows, may be mutated and cause defects, which encourage the development of caries. There is a gene complex, which is specifically responsible for the formation of tooth enamel. Scientists performed experiments with mice models to see how different mutations in in the so-called Wnt signalling pathway influence the development of enamel on teeth.

And so scientists noticed that mice with mutations in these genes had defects in their teeth enamel, which would inevitably evolve into caries. Scientists say that this research will help improving understanding of the formation of the tooth enamel, which later could help developing some caries prevention therapies. This research was the first in the world to use modern genetic, molecular and biochemical methods to study tooth enamel defects in detail. Claudio Cantù, co-first author of the study, said: “We discovered that three particular proteins involved in the Wnt signaling pathway aren’t just involved in the development of severe illnesses, but also in the qualitative refinement of highly developed tissue”.

Of course, enamel hardness is the key to having healthy teeth. The harder the teeth are, the more resistant they can be to harmful bacteria. In other words, scientists proved that it is not only bacteria that is to blame for tooth decay, but also tooth itself for not being resistant enough. Bacteria can penetrate defected enamel surface easier. Scientists think that it can lead to new therapies that address these defects and essentially prevent caries development.

Everyone wants to have a beautiful smile, but for some it may not be in the cards. However, taking care of teeth is still important, even if one thinks that his genes gave him strong protection from bacteria.

Source: uzh.ch

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