Researchers study link between missing teeth and eczema

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Researchers study link between dental agenesis and atopic dermatitis

According to researchers, the shared tissue origin of the skin and teeth means that genetic mutations associated with atopic dermatitis could share a common pathogenic pathway with abnormalities in tooth development. (Image: Chubykin Arkady/Shutterstock)

Wed. 12. July 2023


SINGAPORE: The skin and teeth share ectodermal tissue origins, and a number of studies have demonstrated an association between atopic dermatitis and abnormalities in tooth development, such as hypomineralisation and hypodontia. A recent review sought to identify possible associations between atopic dermatitis and dental agenesis, and the researchers proposed that the conditions may be linked through a shared mechanistic pathway of protein interaction.

The researchers, from institutes in China and Singapore, observed numerous examples in the scientific literature that showed commonalities between the chronic inflammatory skin disease and abnormalities in tooth structure. They pointed to a Singaporean birth cohort study from 2017 which found that children with atopic dermatitis faced a threefold higher risk of developing dental caries by age 3. A 2021 cross-sectional nationwide study of adults in South Korea showed a similar association, finding that the prevalence of decayed, missing and filled teeth was strongly associated with diagnosis of atopic dermatitis.

On the basis of these and other findings, the review researchers wrote that an “ectodermal subclinical development defect” has been hypothesised, owing to the shared tissue origin of the skin and teeth, and that genetic mutations associated with atopic dermatitis could share a common pathogenic pathway with abnormalities in tooth development.

The review found no direct overlap between the genes associated with epidermal barrier defects in atopic dermatitis and dental agenesis, leading the researchers to conduct an analysis of protein interactions between the conditions in order to further investigate possible shared developmental pathways. They identified potential protein–protein interactions between proteins that are known to be associated with the conditions—particularly desmosomal proteins, which are involved in the maintenance of the skin barrier, and β-catenin, which regulates cell growth and adhesion between cells and is involved in odontogenesis, among its other functions.

“The specific mechanism by which these two diseases interact through this pathway remains unclear and more evidence is needed,” the researchers wrote. “Nevertheless, our findings help to narrow down the possible shared pathogenic pathways for future research to interrogate in this novel field and help support the hypothesis that shared genetic mutations in the epidermal structure could increase the risk of tooth agenesis, thus linking structural defects in the skin barrier and tooth formation,” they concluded.

The study, titled “Genetic/protein association of atopic dermatitis and tooth agenesis”, was published online on 17 March 2023 in International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

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