Are you the type of person who always brushes and flosses carefully, yet you regularly have problems with your teeth? It might not be your fault, but the fault of your genetics. For everyone, bacteria can attack tooth enamel, but if that enamel is defective, even rigorous care might not be enough. While it’s still important to limit your sweets and practice healthy dental hygiene, a recent study by researchers at the University of Zurich has shown that mutated genes may lead to defects in one’s tooth enamel, which can make certain people more susceptible to developing tooth decay.
Tooth Enamel and the Wnt Signaling Pathway
Researchers from the Institute of Molecular Life Sciences and the Centre of Dental Medicine point to a specific gene complex that affects tooth enamel development. They used mice with different degrees of mutation of tooth enamel proteins, which is involved with the Wnt signaling pathway. On this “transmission route,” cells respond to certain signals and activate genes in the cell’s nucleus. This pathway is crucial for development of the embryo and plays an important role when it comes to developing physical malformities or cancer.
The Link Between Genetics and Tooth Enamel
The study showed that mice that had these types of protein mutations had enamel defects in their teeth, demonstrating a direct link. This sheds quite a bit of light on how tooth enamel is produced and why caries can develop. Their research was made possible by very advanced science. They were the first to use molecular, biochemical and genetic methods to do a detailed study of tooth enamel. They also learned that the three proteins that play a part in the Wnt signaling pathway aren’t just important players in developing serious illnesses — they are also important when it comes to highly developed tissue. Explains Claudio Cantù from the molecular biologist research group, “If the signal transmission isn’t working properly, the structure of the tooth enamel can change.”
Defective Tooth Enamel Can Lead to Tooth Decay
What happens if you happen to have defective tooth enamel? This study has shown that tooth decay isn’t simply a result of bacteria on the teeth, but on the resistance of those teeth to harmful substances. Tooth enamel composition and hardness have a significant effect on how easily bacteria can penetrate the enamel. Even if you practice rigorous dental hygiene, a less stable tooth enamel structure may lead to what is known as carious lesions, which are chalky white spots on the teeth. This may indicate demineralization of the enamel, which can lead to tooth decay.
From Understanding to Prevention
This study about genetic defects in tooth enamel is especially exciting, as it broadens our understanding of tooth enamel, how mutations can impact that enamel and the critical connection between molecular and biological development. It may be possible to develop new products to help in the prevention of tooth decay for those at special risk, which will greatly improve their dental health.