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Oral Health: The Genetic Component

The following is a guest post by Ashley Warner. If you are interested in guest posting for Dental Heroes, please sign up here.

For some people, going to the dentist is a traumatic experience; the fear of dental work is very common. However, proper dental health is important and failure to maintain good dental habits could lead to serious complications. These range from cosmetic issues like the appearance of your teeth to much more serious problems including tooth-loss and cancer. Clearly, you don’t need an online biology degree to know the basics of dental care, it is a well-known fact proper brushing, using mouthwash, flossing and avoiding sugar are essential for clean teeth and healthy gums. Unfortunately, studies have confirmed that a person’s genetics have an effect on the overall healthiness of their teeth, so even people who execute perfect dental hygiene could find themselves at risk.

Genetics play a major role in every part of your life, and your mouth is no different. Everything from the alignment of your teeth to their strength can be linked to genetics. Thus, the likelihood and severity of tooth decay is tied to the makeup of your teeth. For instance, one of the most common afflictions involving dental health is a cavity, what dentists look for when you get your regular cleaning. However, some people who brush every day seem to be prone to cavities while others, even some who may practice poor oral hygiene, seem to hardly ever get cavities. The reasons for this disparity are numerous, but one of the key factors is a person’s genetic makeup.

Studies have indicated that a range of genetic factors can play a role in cavity development. Cavities are mainly caused by bacterial or food acids, and everything from the composition of your saliva to the shape of your teeth can increase or decrease the risk of developing cavities. Some people may have elements in their saliva that help neutralize those acids, making them less likely to develop cavities regardless of their brushing habits. Additionally, people with more grooves in their teeth, or teeth that are poorly aligned, are at greater risk as acids can easily sneak in to those grooves and crevices. Because it is harder to remove the acids from these places, they often stay there longer and dissolve more of the tooth.

Studies have also indicated that genetics play a major role in periodontal disease, the most common forms of which are gingivitis and periodontitis. Aside from the obvious environmental factors, studies have shown that people with a family history of these diseases are prone to developing them. Additionally, the ability to recover from gingivitis and other periodontal diseases is also tied to genetic factors. Healing is tied to the immune system, and people who have received a weakened immune system from their parents have a more difficult time recovering from these conditions. This means that not only is your likelihood to get a periodontal disease associated with genetic factors, but your ability to heal from that disease is as well.

You could even take things a step further and link behavioral habits to genetics, such as diet and metabolism. Studies have shown that genetic factors play an important role in what foods you are prone to eat, and the way in which those foods are digested and used by the body. As such, your heredity may cause you to be more prone to eat foods that are harmful to your teeth. This is a double-edged sword when it comes to managing dental health.

Most people are raised to brush their teeth and floss every day. While these habits are clearly important when it comes to dental health, genetic factors have to be considered. Genetics determine how strong your teeth are, the makeup of your saliva and your eating habits, all of which have an impact on your teeth and mouth. Given all of the evidence, it is essential that genetic factors be considered when evaluating your dental health.

Reader Comments

  1. Comment Arrow

    Interesting perspective.. relating metabolism, eating habits, and dental health. Connecting the dots, it does make a lot of sense and seems to shine a light to make people more aware of said concerns. Thanks!

  2. BlogFront April 6th

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    Blog Revolucion

  3. carmeldentist December 10th

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    Great , great post, thanks for sharing

  4. Alicia Aguilar February 1st

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    Thanks for sharing your blog with us , When I was kid I also affraid of dentist ,But oral hygein plays very important role in human body , I definetly follow your advice.

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