Genetics is known to be a risk factor for the development of periodontitis and more than 20 genes have been identified that are involved in the disease.
Although family studies have shown a higher risk for periodontitis is certain families, these have been limited by their inability to distinguish clearly between genetic and environmental risk factors.
Deciding that a small rural community where there was detailed knowledge of the population’s periodontal health would provide the ideal location for research on familial tendency towards periodontitis, a team of researchers examined a sample of patients from a single Norwegian rural community and ethnic group.
This study, now summarised as JCP Digest issue number 74, compared tooth loss between patients treated for periodontal disease with a close family member who had periodontal treatment or disease in the past and patients with no close family members with a history of periodontal disease or treatment.
The five-year study found that patients, both parents and children, who had a family history of periodontal disease showed about three times more tooth loss compared with patients in the control group.
Researchers concluded that, within the limitations of the study, a family history of periodontitis was a “strong prognostic treatment factor”.
They recommended that when clinicians treat patients with periodontitis they ask if any family member has or has had periodontitis and said that “this important prognostic factor should be taken into consideration when planning the treatment.”
The research was summarised for JCP Digest by students of the EFP-accredited postgraduate programme in periodontology at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.