Did you know that your oral health offers clues about your overall health – and that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body? There is growing evidence that supports the link between risk for periodontal disease and the development of other chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and cognitive decline.

Personalised medicine, also known as precision medicine, uses an individual's genetic profile to guide decisions about the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease.

Specific genetic testing, designed to reveal insights into the state of your oral health and your predisposition for developing periodontal disease and tooth caries, can also indicate whether you are at risk for other systemic diseases.

“Genetic factors are at the root cause of certain medical conditions,” says Helen Gautschi, Manager of R&D and education at DNAlysis Biotechnology, one of South Africa’s premier genetic testing laboratories.

“Our genetics are the building blocks for who and what we are. They play a large role in determining height, appearance, lifelong health, and so much more. Genetic testing examines DNA to give you insight into a broad range of matters, including mutations in your genes that may cause illness or disease. We encourage people to protect themselves by learning more about the connection between their oral and overall health.”

Gautschi says that once a genetic test for oral health has been conducted, patients are provided with a report that offers targeted, personalised diet, nutraceutical, lifestyle, and oral health recommendations to offset possible genetic weaknesses and optimise oral and systemic health outcomes.

“Our testing reports on 20 gene variations involved in key biological areas including innate immunity, inflammation and acquired immunity, sweet-tooth predisposition, detoxification, and lipid metabolism, all of which are essential in the management of periodontal and systemic health,” says Gautschi. “Testing is recommended for anyone over the age of 30, which is when gum disease starts to become more prevalent.”

The test is ideal for people who are about to undergo a dental procedure, those with a family or personal history of poor oral health, or who have amalgam fillings. It may also benefit those who are overweight, or have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, diabetes or have uncontrolled blood glucose levels by providing further insight into these conditions.

Dr Mary Dawjee, Associate Dentist at The Thinc Clinic in Johannesburg, says a large percentage of the population is at risk for gum disease, which is a major cause of tooth loss. “Recent research confirms that gum disease is actually a result of common genetic mutations,” says Dawjee.

“Certain genes cause an autoimmune response from bacteria, which leads to inflammation and tissue damage. Genetic testing provides early warning of modifiable risk factors in your genes and enables people to change the expression of these genes through the right diet, nutrition, lifestyle, and other interventions. It is like being given a manual for your body.”

Being aware of the risk factors to your health is empowering. “It’s about taking responsibility for your health. Once you know what the risks are, you can make the changes necessary to mitigate them. With people living longer, they can now also live better by knowing what steps to take to maintain quality of life,” says Gautschi.

Speak to your health practitioner about how a DNASmile genetic test can give you insights into the state of your oral health, help you mitigate risks and improve your overall health using gene-based, personalised, interventions.

Visit https://dnalysis.co.za to find an accredited practitioner or buy a DNA test online. A practitioner from the DNAlysis accredited network will guide you through the process.

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