Document Type


Publication Date





dental cavities, tooth decay, gum and heart disease, taste pathway gene, gene variant, blood pressure, heart rate, salivary pH, tooth enamel


Despite brushing and/or flossing their teeth twice daily, many people are still susceptible to dental cavities and tooth decay. This research investigates the genetic and cardiovascular health behind this phenomenon. Two gene variants related to taste pathways, taste 1 receptor member 2 (TAS1R2) and taste 2 receptor member 38 (TAS2R38), were tested on the DNA of 20 students at Northern State University (10 males and 10 females). In concert with genetic screening, tooth impressions were taken of the participants’ upper and lower jaws along with salivary pH, heart rates, and blood pressures. Participants’ cavities and fillings were counted and their gums examined for inflammation. Results showed that seven out of 10 males and two out of 10 females had the gene variant (TAS1R2). Students with this gene variant had an average salivary pH of 5.22—significantly lower than the salivary pH for the other non-carrier students (p < 0.05). These students also had smaller-sized tooth enamel, with none showing a size greater than one millimeter (xࡃ = 0.84 millimeters). Students not expressing the gene variant had fewer cavities than those expressing the TAS1R2 gene variant (i.e., one of the regions amplified). Four of the males and both of the females that carried the gene variant also showed signs of swollen gums, possibly contributing to heart disease in the future. Blood pressures and heart rates for the carriers were statistically significant (p < 0.05), showing higher pressures and faster rates compared to non-carriers; meanwhile, all of the non-carriers had normal pressures and rates. Further, body mass index was lower among individuals without the gene variant. The results this limited study indicate that the TAS1R2 gene variant may play a role in cavity development and impact (or indicate poor) cardiovascular health, highlighting the importance of understanding the role of gene variants with regard to risk of tooth decay and gum and heart disease.


This article is the print version of Dr. Keryakos' thesis which he defended as an honors student at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Online access:

Source Publication Title

American Journal of Undergraduate Research





First Page