ADA Releases Resources on Genetics and Oral Health

Dentistry Today


The ADA offers new resources for dental professionals and the public related to genetics and oral health. While genetic testing holds potential for clinical application in the future, reports the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs Genetic Testing Workgroup, clinical measurements such as probing measurements and radiographic evaluations remain the best approach for assessing caries and periodontal disease.

A predictive test for dental caries or periodontal disease does not exist yet, the ADA notes, as these are complex diseases with multiple genetic and environmental risk factors. No gene has been identified with as large an impact on periodontal disease as environmental influences such as smoking or diabetes, according to the resources.

There are commercially marketed tests that claim to measure risk of disease or susceptibility to future disease, categorized as laboratory-developed tests or direct-to-consumer tests. Yet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that genetic risk is just one factor of many and that it alone does not indicate whether the user will or won’t ultimately develop a disease.

Now, the FDA is establishing criteria known as special controls that will clarify its expectations in ensuring the accuracy, reliability, and clinical relevance of these tests. When met along with general controls, the FDA says, these special controls provide reasonable assurance of the safety and effectiveness of these and similar genetic health risk tests.  

The ADA’s resource on genetics and genetic testing explains basic genetic principles, genetic testing, and the use of genetic information in making decisions in dentistry. It is available on the ADA’s Oral Health Topics web page for dental professionals. Information for the public also is available at

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