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Crit Rev Oral Biol Med. 1995;6(4):319-42.

Genetic influences in caries and periodontal diseases.

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Department of Periodontology, College of Dentistry, University of Florida, Gainesville 32610, USA.


Deciphering the relative roles of heredity and environmental factors ("nature vs. nurture") in the pathogenesis of dental caries and diseases of the periodontium has occupied clinical and basic researchers for decades. Success in the endeavor has come more easily in the case of caries; the complex interactions that occur between host-response mechanisms and putative microbiologic pathogens in periodontal disease have made elucidation of genetic factors in disease susceptibility more difficult. In addition, during the 30-year period between 1958 and 1987, only meager resources were targeted toward the "nature" side of the nature/nurture dipole in periodontology. In this article, we present a brief history of the development of genetic epistemology, then describe the three main research mechanisms by which questions about the hereditary component of diseases in humans can be addressed. A critical discussion of the evidence for a hereditary component in caries susceptibility is next presented, also from a historical perspective. The evolution of knowledge concerning possible genetic ("endogenous", "idiotypic") factors in the pathogenesis of inflammatory periodontal disease is initiated with an analysis of some foreign-language (primarily German) literature that is likely to be unfamiliar to the reader. We identify a turning point at about 1960, when the periodontal research community turned away from genetics in favor of microbiology research. During the past five years, investigators have re-initiated the search for the hereditary component in susceptibility to common adult periodontal disease; this small but growing body of literature is reviewed. Recent applications of in vitro methods for genetic analyses in periodontal research are presented, with an eye toward a future in which persons who are at risk--genetically predisposed--to periodontal disease may be identified and targeted for interventive strategies. Critical is the realization that genes and environment do not act independently of each other; the appearance or magnitude of heritability may differ with various environments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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