Blond hair and blue eyes are common genetic factors passed down by our parents, but can those same genes contribute to your bad teeth and oral health? Can you blame your crooked smile or gum disease on your parents? Can bad teeth be hereditary? The answer is maybe. While genetics can play a significant role in a person’s health, including their teeth, the root cause of oral health issues goes beyond just your specific genes and actually depends more on your genes and environment combined.
- Understand how genes can affect your overall oral health
- Learn how your genes can make you predisposed to certain oral health conditions
- Understand that how you care for your teeth can overcome genetic predisposition
Roles of genetics in your oral health
Genes are passed down to you from your parents and they can influence your overall health. However, these genes are not solely responsible for any medical or dental conditions. In truth, your genes create a blueprint for your body to follow. Specific genes help determine how your body responds to specific stresses or damage, such as increased sugar intake and your teeth.
Genetic predisposition vs. certainty
When it comes to your genes, you have to understand that a specific gene can be associated with certain conditions does not necessarily mean those conditions are in your future. It means that you have a predisposition, or increased risk, for these certain conditions. For example, those with inherited genes for Sjogren’s syndrome may not produce adequate saliva to combat oral bacteria, meaning they have an increased risk for dental decay and cavities. However, their environment can affect that risk.
Genetics and the environment
Your genes may predispose you to certain oral health conditions, such as decay, but how you address those risks, such as with a strong oral hygiene routine, can reduce the risk of potential oral health concerns. For example, the genetic history of Sjogren’s syndrome we mentioned above can increase your risk of oral decay and cavities. However, a strong oral hygiene routine, adding extra water to your diet, and attending regular oral health checkups can help you keep your oral health in top shape and avoid the potential teeth problems associated with Sjogren’s syndrome.
Dental issues that are hereditary
While your genes do not independently cause dental issues, a family history of dental concerns can predispose you to dental issues. Knowing your family history can help you combat potential concerns and keep your teeth healthy.
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, begins as gingivitis. This is caused by a buildup of bacteria in the mouth that contributes to the buildup of plaque and tartar. If left untreated, this bacterial buildup can cause inflammation of the gums surrounding the teeth and eventually lead to tissue and bone loss. Numerous studies have shown that certain genes can play a role in periodontal diseases, such as Sjogren’s example above, and can often be a direct cause of periodontal manifestations. For example, those with periodontal Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can have connective tissue abnormalities that affect the gums, creating an increased risk for periodontal disease.
Genetics, as well as a lot of sugar, can increase your risk for tooth decay. Certain genes that affect the enamel development in adult teeth, for example, can increase the risk of tooth decay if sugars and bacteria are not adequately removed from the tooth surface through regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups.
While you likely know that regular consumption of coffee or wine, as well as cigarette smoking, can affect the color of your teeth. However, chances are you have noticed that some people just seem to have whiter teeth than others. While whitening treatments may be part of the reason, the natural color of your teeth is partly blamed on genetics and how your tooth enamel develops. Underneath your tooth enamel is the layer of your tooth known as dentin. This layer is naturally light yellow in color, while enamel is a bluish-white color. Combined in an ideal state, these two layers create the natural white appearance of your teeth. However, if your genes cause a reduced enamel layer, you are more likely to have teeth with a yellowish appearance.
While some people are born with perfectly straight teeth that never needed braces, others are born with extra teeth, abnormally large teeth, overlapping teeth, overbites, and underbites. Unfortunately, most of these are due to genetics and are likely passed down from your parents. The bad news is that many of these conditions can contribute to an increased risk of oral health problems. However, dental treatments, such as braces and tooth removal, can treat these conditions, giving you straight teeth and a beautiful smile.
Weak teeth and enamel
Genes passed down from your parents can also affect the development of your teeth. In addition to crooked teeth or underbites and overbites, genetics can affect enamel development, making them less resistant to bacteria and increasing your risk for tooth decay. Your genes can also affect the size and strength of your teeth, as well as the supporting jawbone.
While oral cancer is most often blamed on tobacco and alcohol, genetics can also play a role in this serious disease. Many people carry specific genetic markers that can predispose them to cancer development. If you have a family history of cancer, it is a good idea to let your dentist know so that they can offer regular oral cancer screenings.
Jaw-related issues, such as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), cause pain in the jaw joint as well as the muscles that support jaw movement. Numerous studies have discovered that specific genes can contribute to structural complications that cause TMJ to develop.
How to overcome genetics
The good news is, you are not locked into a life of dental doom just because your parents passed down specific genes. While these genes can increase your risk of potential dental complications, they do not guarantee you will have any complications. Following these tips, you can combat poor dental genes and maintain a beautiful, healthy smile.
Follow a good oral hygiene routine
Following a good oral hygiene routine that includes brushing twice a day and flossing at least once, can help keep bacteria at bay and reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. If you have genetic predispositions or health conditions that can affect your oral health, talk with your dentist about specific measures you can take to improve your everyday oral health. For example, those with Sjogren’s syndrome may need to increase water intake or take medications to improve saliva production in order to reduce bacterial overgrowth.
Following a healthy diet
What you eat and drink on a daily basis can greatly impact your oral health. Foods like candy and cookies, or anything high in sugar, feed oral bacteria and over time will increase plaque development. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables instead of sugary snacks can help reduce bacterial overgrowth. In addition, pass on those sugary sodas or Starbucks mochas and drink water throughout the day to help remove surface bacteria.
Schedule regular checkups with your dentist
When it comes to fighting the effects of genes and maintaining good oral health, a general dentist can be your biggest asset. Attending routine dental checkups allows them to identify potential concerns before they cause severe damage. With regular dental exams, your dentist can identify potential concerns and suggest methods of products that can help combat the issue. Regular cleanings also help to reduce plaque buildup and keep your teeth and gums healthy despite genetics.
Achieving oral health despite what your parents gave you
While your parents were nice enough to pass down their genes to you, you don’t have to live with the consequences to your oral health these genes may cause. By maintaining a good oral hygiene routine, eating healthy, and seeing your dentist on a regular basis for both exams and cleanings, you can fight back against your genetics and keep your smile healthy and beautiful.
The team at New Leaf Rohnert Park can help
At New Leaf Rohnert Park, we understand the importance of a beautiful smile and healthy teeth. We also understand how some oral conditions can run in the family and we are here to help you battle those conditions. As a team, we can work with you to promote good oral health and reduce your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
To learn more about how we can help, visit us online or call us at 707-607-8695 to schedule an appointment.