Oral Health Problems: Are They Genetic?

At Spanish Springs Family Dentistry, we never like to say that someone has “Bad” teeth, but things like decay, infection, plaque, and gum disease can all be very bad—and can come from many different causes. But can bad teeth be genetic? Let’s take a look at the surprising effect that DNA has on how susceptible someone is to tooth decay and other problems and how you can still have healthy gums and teeth despite your genetics.

The Effects of Genetics on Oral Health

Your teeth genetics play a considerable role in the kinds and severity of oral health issues you may deal with in your lifetime. Things like the size, strength, and alignment of your teeth and the health of your gums all have a strong genetic component to them, as well as your risk of cavities.

For example, your saliva neutralizes the acids excreted by the microorganisms that cause plaque and subsequent decay, but some people’s saliva is genetically altered to be less effective at neutralizing these acids than others, increasing the risk of decay regardless of the home care routine. Similarly, teeth whose shape is genetically determined to have more grooves and crevices are more difficult to remove plaque. Evidence also indicates that having a family history of gum disease can make you more at risk for gingivitis and periodontitis.

Perhaps one of the most interesting and subtle effects our genes have on our oral health, however, has little to do with our teeth genetics. Some family dental care studies have found that genetically bad teeth can result from an inherited predisposition to certain behaviors and food choices. You may have inherited a sweet tooth from one of your parents, for example, that may lead to oral health problems later on. In this way, “genetic tooth problems” aren’t just because of our actual teeth’ genetics but are still inherited traits.

How You Can Overcome Genetics?

Bad teeth genetics, however, are not a lifelong sentence, and it’s possible to overcome genetic factors to have strong, healthy teeth. In fact, paying attention to the kind of genetic tooth problems other members of your family struggle with can give you an excellent roadmap as far as where you need to pay the most attention in your oral care.

Maintain Good Oral Hygiene

People with genetically bad teeth have even more reasons to go to the dentist and adhere to strict oral care routines. Besides brushing twice per day with a soft-bristled brush, flossing in the evenings, and using a fluoride mouthwash, if you know that you are at risk of genetic tooth decay, you might consider carrying a travel toothbrush with you for quick cleaning after lunch or a snack. You should also drink plenty of water to keep your mouth hydrated and chew gum to help remove leftover food particles. Finally, make sure you are seeing your dentist for cleaning and checkups twice per year at least.

Make Healthy Diet Choices

We’ve already covered how our genetics can make you predisposed to prefer certain food choices. If you find yourself drawn to candy or junk food more often, it’s worth trying to consciously resist the urge to indulge, as these foods will have a negative effect on your oral health over time. Instead of candy or heavily processed foods, try to satiate sweet cravings with fruit, or reach for a handful of nuts for a salty crunch. Finally, dairy products like cheese contain chemicals to clean the mouth and produce saliva.

Visit the Dentist Regularly

If you are at risk for oral health problems due to your teeth’ genetics, you might consider seeing your dentist more than a minimum of twice per year. Aside from thoroughly cleaning your teeth, your dentist can monitor your oral health and prevent problems like cavities from worsening. Oral health issues are always easier to treat if spotted early, and an extra visit will improve your chances of stopping decay before it gets worse, so schedule an appointment today!

Other Hereditary Diseases That Can Affect Oral Health

Other than tooth decay and gum disease, other oral health issues can be drastically impacted by your genetics. These include conditions like cleft lip or palate, which is an incomplete formation of the upper lip and has been found to have a noticeable genetic link in some populations. Oral cancers also have a high genetic predisposition, and if someone in your family has been diagnosed, you may have a better chance of developing the disease. However, oral cancer is more likely to develop in people who use tobacco products or drink alcohol excessively. People with a family history of oral cancer should absolutely stay away from these variables.

While teeth genetics can play a big role in the kinds of oral health problems we might face, it doesn’t decide how we will respond to treatment and care or if we will have bad teeth forever. Being conscious of your genetic predisposition toward tooth decay and other problems is simply another factor in keeping your teeth and gums healthy—one that a good dentist can account for in your treatment plan. If you have more questions about how your genetics may influence your oral health, call the Spanish Springs Family Dental team today and schedule your first appointment!