Could Your Dentist One Day Cure Your Cancer?

So we visit the dentist to have our teeth cleaned, maybe a cavity filled, sometimes even to affix a crown. But did you know one day sitting down at your dentist could result in more than even a doctor might be able to tell you?

A new study says dentists one day soon may be required to get a detailed look at how genes in a patient's body are being switched on or off.

That means which genes are activated, and which are shut down.   

It's called epigenetics and researchers are now studying how it relates to oral health, newswise.com reports. 

"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," the Web site quotes study author associate professor Toby Hughes, University of Adelaide.

Epigenetics has had an increasing role in biological and medical research, newswise.com notes.  Scientists are excited that It could open up a range of opportunities for diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

"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 (microbe population living in our intestines) also play a key role in the state of our oral health," Hughes says at newswise.com. "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."

He adds that other potential oral health targets for the study of epigenetics include the inflammation and immune responses that lead to periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss; and the development and progression of oral cancers.

The point?  Early treatment of any of these conditions leads to much greater success.

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