Study finds link between hair disorders and dental cavities

April 14, 2015

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Recent research conducted by scientists at the National Institutes of Health reveals a link between hair disorders and susceptibility to dental caries.1 The findings, which were presented at the 93rd General Session and Exhibition of the International Association for Dental Research, found that hair and teeth have common developmental mechanisms. Though hair and teeth have distinctly different structural components, researchers examined a small amount of organic material found in tooth enamel that may reveal structural weakness. This abnormal structure may result in hair disorders, suggesting those with weak hair might want to find a dentist.

Research and findings
The scientists presented their findings in a presentation titled, "Hair Keratins as Structural Organic Components of Mature Enamel: The Link Between Hair Disorders and Susceptibility to Dental Caries," which examined mutations in keratin genes. The team found that these mutations are linked to a higher likelihood of cavities. To reach these conclusions, the researchers performed a genetic examination to obtain data from 706 adults and 386 children.

Tooth decay was specifically correlated to keratin 75 (K75), which is used to form nails and hair. When K75 mutated, participants were more likely to have dental caries and tooth decay.

The team noted that tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body that protects teeth against dental caries.2 In general, common oral care practices suggest that eating healthy, regularly cleaning your teeth and seeing a dentist twice a year keeps our teeth in good condition. This research suggests that genetics may also play a role in one's risk of cavities. Since keratin is an essential protein for hair and teeth, a weakness in one may suggest a weakness in the other.

"Our results identify a genetic locus that influences enamel structure and establish a connection between hair disorders and susceptibility to dental caries," Maria Morasso, of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, explained.1

A major takeaway from this research is the overall importance of keratin. The NIH notes that the protein is not only pivotal to hair and nails, but also the skin's outer layer.1 For those with hair disorders, this research suggests getting regular dental checkups and exercising good oral hygienic practices.

The study was published in December 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.2

1 "Research on Keratins Reveals Unexpected Link Between Hair Disorders and Dental Decay," National Institutes of Health, October 2014. http://www.niams.nih.gov/News_and_Events/Research_Brief/2014/tooth_enamel.asp

2 "Hair keratin mutations in tooth enamel increase dental decay risk," by Olivier Duverger, Takahiro Ohara, John R. Shaffer, Danielle Donahue, Patricia Zerfas, Andrew Dullnig, Christopher Crecelius, Elia Beniash, Mary L. Marazita and Maria I. Morasso, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, Dec. 1, 2014. http://www.jci.org/articles/view/78272?key=ed53e5cdac039dab61e3

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