The tooth enamel of individuals suffering from keratin mutations may display abnormal structure that results in hair weakness, new research suggests.

People who are experiencing problems in their hair may have to give their teeth some extra loving care. Researchers learned that hair disorder increases the risk of dental decay.

Keratin is an array of proteins and the key structural component of hair. It is essential to achieving healthy tooth enamel. Mutations in these proteins may lead to weakness.

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

Morasso and her research team discovered that those with mutations in their hair keratin genes are prone to having cavities. The results of the study show that there is a link that connects hair disorders with cavity formation.

One type of hair disorder is hair loss wherein hair, which is normally present in one's scalp and body, falls out.

"Epithelial hair keratins, which are crucial for maintaining the integrity of the sheaths that support the hair shaft, are expressed in the enamel organ and are essential organic components of mature enamel," said by the researchers.

The researchers studied the data obtained from the intra-oral and genetic examination of 386 children and 706 adults and found that those with known hair disorder-linked polymorphisms in keratin 75 (KRT75E337K, KRT75A161T, and KRT75) were susceptible to dental caries.

"Genetic variation in KRT75 increases the risk of dental caries and that the effects of specific polymorphisms may differ across dentitions and by genotype at other loci," said the researchers. "KRT75 can therefore be added to the list of enamel formation genes (amelogenin, ameloblastin, enamelin, tuftelin) in which polymorphisms have been previously associated with caries experience."

The study shows that genetics, apart from oral hygiene and dietary choices, also plays an important role in the formation of cavities. It therefore suggested that a working keratin network is essential for the tooth enamel's mechanical stability.

"Taken together, our results identify a genetic locus that influences enamel structure and establish a connection between hair disorders and susceptibility to dental caries," said the researchers.

The study can be viewed online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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