Are Bad Teeth Hereditary?

Young Woman touching jaw from pain

One of the bigger mysteries of our modern world is whether nature or nurture plays a role in our lives.

It’s a question that medical professionals and philosophers alike have pondered: Are our lives, decisions and overall personality guided more by our genetic make-up or the environment we grew up in or may be in currently?

The answer is probably a little of both since it’s often possible to try and “overcome” genetics if you put extra effort into reducing your risk factors.

Oral health is similar: some research has shown that susceptibility to gum disease, tooth decay, oral cancers, misaligned teeth, and a cleft lip/cleft palate might be passed on through a family’s genetic code. Even the amount of wisdom teeth can differ in different families. There’s also a gene called beta-defensin 1 that is linked to higher rates of tooth decay and gum disease.

But at the same time, one recent study of the oral health of twins showed that while hereditary microbes and common bacteria are more likely to cause some of these diseases, they don’t seem to have an effect on the frequency of cavities, which are usually caused by a poor diet and poor oral health.

If you believe you’re at higher risk of these problems due to genetics, the first step is to talk with your dental provider or other dental specialists, such as an orthodontist who can discuss braces and other solutions to straighten teeth or to an oral surgeon, who can help with conditions such as cleft palate or a misaligned jaw. They will have suggestions on what steps you can take to reduce your risk.

Healthy habits to reduce oral disease include:

  • Reduce or remove sugar from your diet. This can reduce the exposure to sugar on your teeth and reduce the rates of decay and cavities.
  • Quit smoking or using smokeless tobacco products.
  • Smoke from cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, or smokeless tobacco, can increase the risk of cancers of gums and oral tissue, gum diseases, and can weaken the immune system.
  • Schedule regularly teeth cleanings and check-ups. This provides regular opportunities to check with your dentist.
  • Brush and floss regularly.

At HollowBrook Dentistry, we may offer other preventative dentistry suggestions if you are a high-risk patient. For instance, we may recommend applying sealant over teeth, which makes it more difficult for cavities to get in. Regular fluoride treatments or mouth rinses can also promote better oral health on a regular basis.

Overall, we may never get a satisfactory answer for the greater “nature vs. nurture” question but when you’re talking about dental health, the better question is, “What do you need to do to keep your teeth strong all your life and prevent decay?”

Contact HollowBrook Dental to set up an appointment today.

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