Is Oral Health Genetic?


You might not realize it, but something that affects our oral health is genetics. While this is obviously a contributing factor in diseases like cancer, heart disease, and genetically-linked growth distributions our teeth are also impacted by who your ancestors are! Some people must get their teeth cleaned more often to stay healthy. Sometimes, even with great dental hygiene, some people still get cavities or sensitivity problems. This is most likely due to genes – according to dentists and scientists.

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in the world. According to a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Dental Research in London, billions of people all over the world are afflicted with one form or another of dental problems. The study, which first started in 2010, estimated that almost 4 million people were affected by dental decay.

Tooth decay is dangerous because it affects the most commonly used part of the human body – the mouth. Having tooth problems can affect a person’s food intake, and even disturb his or her sleep because of the pain. For something that can be prevented, the repercussions of tooth decay are quite dire.

Dentists have found out that both genes and personal dental hygiene equally affect dental health. Most people know that people who do not practice adequate dental hygiene and eat a lot of sweets (sugary food) are prone to cavities. However, there are members of the population who brush frequently and floss regularly, but still have tooth problems.

According to a director at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Dental Medicine, almost 60 percent of the risk of tooth decay can be attributed to genes. Studies show that preference to sweets is genetically linked; with children raised in similar to identical environments having very different sweet preferences. The density of tooth enamel is also primarily determined by genetics. People with softer tooth enamel are more prone to developing cavities.

Taste ability has also been linked to a certain gene that allows a person to detect a variety of tastes. People with this gene variant are less likely to develop tooth decay. Genes also affect “saliva strength”, or the concentration of certain elements in saliva. Saliva helps break down the components in food, especially sugar. Even bacteria colonies (normal flora) in the mouth are affected by genes. The immune response to different kinds of bacteria (which can cause tooth decay) are likewise affected by genes.

Since genes make up 60% of the risk for tooth decay, the last 40% can be attributed to personal hygiene and diet. Environmental factors such as food choice, regular brushing, smoking, access to dental case, and many more affect the way we treat our teeth and resulting dental hygiene. To learn how to overcome genetics and practice good oral hygiene contact the Greenspoint Dental team so you can avoid unnecessary dental problems and costly procedures.