Sunday, December 28, 2008

Some Periodontal Disease Has Family Tie

One type of periodontal disease seems to run in families, a study has confirmed.

Periodontal disease is a mouth infection caused by bacteria. Bacteria in tooth plaque give off toxins. In fighting these toxins, the body also damages the bone and gums. If it is not treated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss. It also can cause bone loss in the jaw.

Aggressive periodontitis is one form of periodontal disease. It appears in otherwise healthy people. Tissue and bone damage happen faster in this form of the disease. It can affect only a few teeth, or the entire mouth.

Researchers from University College London studied this disease in 55 people. They also examined 100 of their relatives.

Ten of the relatives had aggressive periodontitis. This means they have about a 1 in 10 chance of developing this disease. This risk level is much higher than average.

The researchers also took blood samples. They looked at forms of a gene that code for a protein called interleukin-6, or IL-6. This protein is produced by immune system cells and bone cells. It is produced in response to inflammation. IL-6 also can spur the breakdown of bone.

Some forms of the gene for IL-6 seemed to be associated with aggressive periodontitis, both in the study subjects and their relatives.

The study appears in the December issue of the Journal of Periodontal Research.