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Your genetic makeup has a predisposition for certain diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. But do your genes also have an influence on your oral health? You may be surprised to learn what the latest studies have to say about the connection between your genes and things like cavities, periodontal disease, and oral cancer.
Genetics and Tooth Decay
Cavities are caused by bacteria. Sugar in the foods we eat feeds the different types of bacteria that live on the surfaces of our teeth. The acid these bacteria then produce is what erodes tooth enamel and causes cavities. A recent study has proven that although there are genetic dispositions to some types of tooth bacteria, in general, these weren’t the bacteria associated with tooth decay. The types of bacteria that form cavities are those influenced by controllable factors, like eating too much sugar.
Additionally, genetics do affect things such as the strength of your tooth enamel and how much bacteria-fighting saliva your body produces. If your family seems to have a high incidence of dental cavities, ask your dentist about dental sealants to give your teeth the extra strength they need to fight off decay.
Genetics and Gum Disease
Left untreated, gum disease can result in tooth loss and bone loss. While genetic factors are known to play a role in gum disease, there is still a significant amount of research that needs to be performed to understand all of the factors involved. Periodontitis is a complex chronic inflammatory disease that is affected not only by genetics but also by environmental factors and lifestyle.
While genetic factors may certainly be involved, the most significant contributing factor to gum disease is a lack of consistently good oral care.
Genetics and Misalignment
Genetics play a significant role in determining the size of your jaw and the size and shape of your teeth. When the jaw does not have sufficient room to accommodate a full set of teeth, it can lead to crowding, gaps, overbites, and underbites. If tooth misalignment is a common issue in your family’s dental history, it’s wise to assume that family trait will likely be passed down to your children. Early intervention can allow developing bones and teeth to grow in properly while preventing more serious and costly issues later.
Genetics and Oral Cancer
Thousands of Americans die from oral cancer each year. Although lifestyle choices, such as tobacco and alcohol use, are the top risk factors for oral cancer, genetics can also play a minor role. Individuals carrying specific genetic markers have been found to have a higher risk of developing the disease.
It’s likely that your dentist routinely screens for oral cancer during your routine cleanings and exams. Special equipment can detect early cancer lesions before they have an opportunity to develop any further. If your dentist does not offer this life-saving exam as part of their routine treatment exam, then be sure to ask about it.
Be Proactive and Preventative With Your Oral Health
When it comes to the state of your oral health, you cant only blame bad genetics for your shortfalls. Specific characteristics and issues can be blamed on the collective gene pool, but for most oral health issues, you can only blame yourself.
Be proactive when it comes to your health, and take the preventative approach to your oral care. Talk with your dentist about whether genetic factors could be affecting your oral health, and ask for tips on how to take better care of your teeth to avoid future issues. Aubrey Baudean DDS is always here to help you determine which factors you can control, and how to take advantage of these by practicing an excellent oral care routine. Call our office today to discuss your genetic disposition in more detail.