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U of Michigan, Interleukin Collaborate on Clinical Study to Reduce Dentist Visits with the Help of Gene Test

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The University of Michigan School of Dentistry and Interleukin Genetics are partnering on a clinical study to investigate whether a genetic test can risk stratify patients with gum disease and help guide how often they need to see a dentist.

The collaborators announced this week that they have recruited approximately 5,400 individuals in the study, completing enrollment. Study participants were identified through a large dental claims database with more than 15 years of oral health history and provided a DNA sample that was analyzed by Interleukin's PST Genetic test. Based on test results, patients will be classified as either low risk or high risk for periodontitis progression.

"Risk classification will be used to assess the frequency of preventive visits that is consistent with maintenance of periodontal health," the study partners said in a statement. It is estimated that US residents make as many as 500 million visits to dentists each year.

Oral health-focused non-profit organization Renaissance Health Service is funding the study.

The PST Genetic Test identifies individuals with heightened risk for "severe and progressive periodontal disease and significant tooth loss" by analyzing a proprietary panel of genetic variations that have been shown in studies to predispose individuals to experience inflammation.

“For more than 30 years, adult patients have been advised to visit the dentist every six months for an examination and cleaning," said William Giannobile, director of the Michigan Center for Oral Health Research, in a statement. "However, there appears to be little evidence supporting the frequency of prevention visits in adults, and a recent systematic review concluded that there is insufficient evidence to either support or refute the six-month interval for preventive dental visits for adults."

By using gene markers to stratify patients, low-risk individuals may only need one dental cleaning yearly, while high-risk patients may require more preventative care.

“This novel clinical study is applying the principles of personalized medicine to determine if preventive care may be more effectively applied to reduce the complications of severe periodontal disease,” Kenneth Kornman, Interleukin Genetics' chief scientific officer, said in a statement, adding that several longitudinal clinical studies have shown that after factoring in patients' medical history, two factors — smoking history and specific interleukin-1 genetic variations — were strongly linked to tooth loss.

Approximately 8 percent to 15 percent of adult Americans have moderate to severe periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss if gone untreated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 percent of adults in the country 60 and older have lost all of their teeth. In 2009, people in the US spent $102 billion in dental services.

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