Prospective Study Seeks to Understand the Genetic Connection between Periodontal and Systemic Health

Kenneth Kornman, DDS, PhD | May 16, 2016

According to the CDC, only 61.7% of adults ages 18 to 64 have visited the dentist in the past year.1 Despite insurance often covering routine dental visits twice per year,2 a high percentage of patients only make one dentist appointment annually3 and many people only see a dentist in emergency situations. Many of these patients have a disproportionate share of chronic diseases that account for a substantial share of healthcare costs.4

The CDC also reports nearly half of adults over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease.5 With periodontal disease proven to be directly associated with a number of health issues in which chronic inflammation is implicated, eg heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes,6 it is important to identify individuals at risk for severe forms of periodontal disease, and to connect them to preventive care. This will not only improve oral health for a significant number of patients, but may also impact the trajectory of their overall wellness.

So, how can we motivate more people to visit the dentist more frequently? Although some studies suggest that knowing one’s genetic information can change health behaviors, little evidence is currently available. As the chief scientific officer at Interleukin Genetics, it is my belief that genetic risk information is specific to a patient’s health and can play a key role in motivating individuals to engage in their periodontal health, and accept treatment recommendations.

To take a closer look into this issue, our company will soon launch a clinical study specifically intended to assess the impact of genetic information from our PerioPredict® Risk Test on dental patient engagement for more preventative care. PerioPredict identifies patients at increased risk for severe periodontitis because they have a genetic tendency to over-produce chronic inflammation, an underlying root cause of many chronic diseases.

This practice-based clinical study will evaluate dental patients who routinely visit the dentist once per year by choice (despite having coverage for twice-per-year visits) in order to determine how knowing their increased risk for periodontal disease will impact the frequency of visits. The study will enroll 800 subjects from 20 to 30 general dentistry clinics across the United States, and is expected to launch on May 1, 2016.

The study will be conducted by a team with broad expertise, including collaborators Geoffrey S. Ginsburg, MD, PhD, a founding director of the Center for Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine and a professor of Medicine, Pathology and Biomedical Engineering, at Duke University, and Jeffrey L. Fellows, PhD, from The Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente. Both Dr. Ginsburg and Dr. Fellows are leading experts in the fields of genetic medicine and population health initiatives.

We are hoping this study will help us determine how dental professionals can use genetic risk information provided by PerioPredict, to positively impact patient behavior and ultimately improve patient wellness outcomes and reduce healthcare costs by catching major health issues in early stages. We know that dental offices provide a powerful access point to reduce systemic inflammation. Our goal is to provide dental offices with additional practice tools they can utilize to enhance health in their at-risk patients and add value to the dental practice.

About the Author
Kenneth S. Kornman, DDS, PhD, is the company president and chief scientific officer of Interleukin Genetics. Prior to founding the company in 1986, Dr. Kornman was a department chair and professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He has also been a consultant and scientific researcher for many major oral care and pharmaceutical companies.

1. Oral and Dental Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Accessed May 12th, 2016.
2. What do dental plans normally cover? National Association of Dental Plans website. Accessed May 12th, 2016.
3. American Dental Association. 2010 Survey of dental practice characteristics of dentists in private practice and their patients. Accessed May 12th, 2016.
4. Chronic Disease Overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Accessed May 12th, 2016.
5. CDC: Half of American Adults Have Periodontal Disease. American Academy of Periodontology website. Accessed May 12th, 2016.
6. Preshaw PM, Alba AL, Herrera D, et al. Periodontitis and diabetes: a two-way relationship. Diabetologia. 2012;55(1):21-31.

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