Adults with periodontitis transmit bacteria that can cause the disease in future to their children, and the bacteria remain in the oral cavity even when the children undergo treatment of various kinds, reinforcing the need for preventive care in the first year of a baby’s life. This is the main conclusion of a study published in Scientific Reports.
Periodontitis is an inflammation of the periodontium, the tissue that supports the teeth and maintains them in the maxillary and mandibular bones. The disease is triggered by bacterial infection. Symptoms include bleeding of the gums and halitosis. In severe cases, it leads to bone and tooth loss. If the bacteria or other microorganisms that cause the disease enter the bloodstream, they may trigger other kinds of inflammation in the body. Treatment includes cleaning of the pockets around teeth by a dentist or hygienist and administration of anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics.
“The parents’ oral microbiome is a determinant of the subgingival microbial colonization of their children,” the article’s authors state in their conclusions, adding that “dysbiotic microbiota acquired by children of periodontitis patients at an early age are resilient to shift and the community structure is maintained even after controlling the hygiene status”..
“If the findings are applied to day-to-day dental practice, the study can be said to help design more direct approaches. Knowing that periodontal disease may affect the patient’s family is an incentive to use preventive treatment, seek early diagnosis and mitigate complications,” said the first author.
“This pioneering study compares parents with and without periodontitis. In children of the former, we found subgingival bacterial colonization at a very early age. However, ‘inheriting’ the problem doesn’t mean a child is fated to develop the disease in adulthood. Hence the importance of keeping an eye open for the smallest signs and seeking specialized help,” the senior author said.
In the study, samples of subgingival biofilm and plaque were collected from 18 adults with a history of generalized aggressive (grade C) periodontitis, their children aged 6-12, and 18 orally healthy adults. In addition to a clinical analysis, the samples were also subjected to a microbiological analysis and genetic sequencing.
“Children of periodontitis parents were preferentially colonized by Filifactor alocis, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Streptococcus parasanguinis, Fusobacterium nucleatum and several species belonging to the genus Selenomonas even in the absence of periodontitis,” the article states. “These pathogens also emerged as robust discriminators of the microbial signatures of children of parents with periodontitis.”
The senior author said that despite bacterial plaque control and vigorous brushing the children of people with the disease still had the bacteria in their mouths, whereas the effects of dental hygiene and prophylaxis were more significant in the children of healthy subjects.
“Because the parents had periodontitis, their children assumed this community with disease characteristics. They carried the bacterial information into their adult lives,” the author said, adding that the analysis of bacterial colonization pointed to a greater likelihood of transmission by the mother. The research group will now work with pregnant women in an effort to “break the cycle” by preventing bacterial colonization of their children’s mouths.
“We’ll treat the mothers during pregnancy, before the babies are born, and try to find out if it’s possible to prevent bacterial colonization from occurring,” the senior author said, noting that studies with patients will proceed only when control of the pandemic permits.
Bacteria that cause periodontitis are transmitted from parents to children
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