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, 30 (2), 40-44

Searching Deep and Wide: Advances in the Molecular Understanding of Dental Caries and Periodontal Disease


Searching Deep and Wide: Advances in the Molecular Understanding of Dental Caries and Periodontal Disease

K Divaris. Adv Dent Res.


During the past decades, remarkable progress has been made in the understanding of the molecular basis of the 2 most common oral diseases, dental caries and periodontal disease. Improvements in our knowledge of the diseases' underlying biology have illuminated previously unrecognized aspects of their pathogenesis. Importantly, the key role of the oral (supragingival and subgingival) microbiome is now well recognized, and both diseases are now best understood as dysbiotic. From a host susceptibility standpoint, some progress has been made in dissecting the "hyperinflammatory" trait and other pathways of susceptibility underlying periodontitis, and novel susceptibility loci have been reported for dental caries. Nevertheless, there is a long road to the translation of these findings and the realization of precision oral health. There is promise and hope that the rapidly increasing capacity of generating multiomics data layers and the aggregation of study samples and cohorts comprising thousands of participants will accelerate the discovery and translation processes. A first key element in this process has been the identification and interrogation of biologically informed disease traits-these "deep" or "precise" traits have the potential of revealing biologically homogeneous disease signatures and genetic susceptibility loci that might present with overlapping or heterogeneous clinical signs. A second key element has been the formation of international consortia with the goals of combining and harmonizing oral health data of thousands of individuals from diverse settings-these "wide" collaborative approaches leverage the power of large sample sizes and are aimed toward the discovery or validation of genetic influences that would otherwise be impossible to detect. Importantly, advancements via these directions require an unprecedented engagement of systems biology and team science models. The article highlights novel insights into the molecular basis of dental caries and chronic periodontitis that have been gained from recent and ongoing studies involving "deep" and "wide" analytical approaches.

Keywords: genetics; implementation science; microbiota; precision medicine; systems biology; translational research.

Conflict of interest statement

The author declares no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship and/or publication of this article.

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