Community Dental Health (2006) 23, 130-132 © BASCD 2006 Background: Most clinicians are familiar with the child who in spite of poor oral hygiene, evidence of a diet rich in sugar and little exposure to ﬂuoride remains caries free. In contrast, the young adult patient who maintains excellent oral hygiene, attends the dentist regularly and is highly motivated in terms of dental care, but still experiences signiﬁcant destruction of their periodontal tissues is also encountered. These scenarios raise the fundamental question, to what extent is dental and oral disease governed by nature or by nurture? In other words, to what degree do genetic or environmental factors inﬂuence susceptibility to dental disease and conditions? In early 2006, the Faculty of Public Health in the United Kingdom held a one day conference entitled “Genomics and Population Health”. This event brought together geneticists, public health practitioners and government ofﬁcials. The primary purpose of the meeting was to explore current developments in the ﬁeld of genomics and to discuss their potential to impact on the health of the public. The emerging ﬁelds of genetic epidemiology and public health genomics have received little attention in dental circles. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of developments in this area and consider their implications for dental public health. of the impact of human genome variation on population health and how genetic information can be used to improve health and prevent disease. Across the world a number of population cohort studies are underway to examine the effects of genetic variation on common traits. In the U.K., the Biobank Project will gather information on the health and lifestyles of 500,000 volunteers between 40 and 69 years of age. Following informed consent, each participant will be asked to donate a blood and urine sample, have some standard measurements (such as blood pressure) and complete a conﬁdential lifestyle questionnaire. Over the next 20 to 30 years UK Biobank will allow researchers to use these resources to study the progression of illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease; however, there are no plans to study dental or oral conditions at this time. In addition, six Genetic Knowledge Parks have been established in England and Wales as part of the Government’s strategy to put Britain at the leading edge of advances in genetic technology. The Genetics Knowledge Parks are all linked to multidisciplinary centres of excellence and offer access to internationally recognised academic and clinical expertise on genetics in relation to healthcare. The Network is building the knowledge base on all aspects of human genetics, ensuring that the National Health Service is better placed to exploit the ﬁndings of genetics research. What then is the relevance of these developments to dental and oral disease?
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