Genetics and Gum Disease

I read a study last week that piqued my interest in the interplay between genetics and gum disease.  Maybe there is a genetic reason for my tendency towards bleeding gums when the hygienist stabs her probe into them?  I was intrigued to look into other influences on gum disease to see if there is something more or different that I need to be doing.    So here is a quick summary of several genes involved in either periodontitis or gingivitis.


TNF-α (Tumor necrosis factor – α)

TNF-α is an inflammatory cytokine involved in the body’s immune response. Like most things in the body, TNF is important to have in the right amounts.  It does play a role in apoptosis in cancer cells in animals, but too much TNF is implicated in inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.  TNF-α is stimulated by bacterial endotoxin (lipopolysaccharides) as well as other pathogens.  It is one of the body’s primary mediators in protection against bacteria and viruses.  But elevated chronic levels of TNF are implicated in a variety of autoimmune diseases.

rs1800629 – According to a meta-analysis released in Nature in January 2016, the minor allele, A, “leads to two- to three-fold higher transcriptional activity of TNF-α upon stimulation with bacterial lipopolysaccharide14,15. Carriage of the rare -308 A allele is associated with significantly greater TNF-α production and transcription. In addition, the A allele has been associated with increased risk for various non-related infectious and inflammatory diseases, including periodontitis.”  [ref]


IL1 (Interluekin 1)

Interleukin 1 is another inflammatory cytokine released in response to endotoxins.

Rs1800587  (minor allele is A) and rs1143634 (minor allele is A) were found to double the risk “for subgingival occurrence of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans” according to a 2011 study. [ref] Here is a paper on “The Importance of Aggregatibacter Actinomycetemcomitans in Etiology of Periodontal Disease“.



Interleukin 6 is an inflammatory cytokine that is involved in defense against injury or infection.  This is another cytokine that is important in infection but can also become a problem if it is not regulated well by the body.  [read more]

rs1800795 (minor allele is C) The minor allele is associated with being less susceptible to gingivitis and periodontitis, having an OR=0.36. [ref]  and [ref] Those with the C allele produce less IL6 than those with the G allele.


Natural options

So if you now know that you are susceptible to gum issues based on your genetics, here are some natural options to explore.  It almost goes without saying (but I’m saying it anyway) that good oral hygiene measures such as brushing your teeth and flossing are always important.

Natural TNF inhibitors include the usual recommendations for inflammation such as quercetin, resveratrol, and turmeric.  Glycine, found in bone broth, was found in a 1999 study to inhibit TNF-α due to endotoxins.  [ref]

There are several essential oils that inhibit aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans.  A 2014 study of three oils found that lemongrass was the most effective of the ones they tested. [ref]  If you use essential oils, do a quick search online; there are many other studies out there looking at other oils as well.

I was curious about whether fluoride in toothpaste would increase TNF.  The only study that I found is a mouse study from the journal Biosciences Biotechnology Research Asia, April 2014.  It shows that serum TNF-α does increase in response to sodium fluoride, but that curcumin and selenium can mitigate part of that elevation.  Read the study for yourself and see what you think… [ref]



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