Do Genes Cause Tooth Decay?
N-164, 2006-07 A pair of identical twins develops caries on the same tooth surfaces over the course of several years. Their dentist wonders: how much of a role does genetics play in this pattern? In an effort to explain how genetics and the environment interact in caries development, New York University dental researchers Dr. Walter Bretz and Dr. Patricia Corby have assembled 1,100 pairs of twins-the largest group of twins ever gathered for oral health research-to assess the relative significance of 15 potential factors in caries development, including anatomical problems, such as porous enamel and deep pits and fissures; salivary protein profiles; oral bacteria levels, sucrose taste preferences and other factors linked to both genetics and the environment; as well as socioeconomic concerns, such as a lack of access to fluoridated water and dental care. By the conclusion of their five-year study, funded by a $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Rese