What Role Do Genetics Play in Our Dental Health?

Genetics and Dental Health

Your parents, grandparents, and extended family all contribute to how you look. They have given you more than just your hair color, the shape of your nose, and your musical gifts. Did you know that genetics also play a role in your oral health? 

It’s true – oral health, and lack thereof, can run in the family. Dental issues, such as gum disease, aren’t just the cause of learning bad habits from your parents; these conditions stem from a hereditary base. 

This means you may be at greater risk for developing dental issues, despite your diligence about brushing, flossing, and getting dental cleanings. 

The next time you are with your parents and extended family, inquire about their history of the following conditions to better understand your risks for developing them.

How Genetics Affect Dental Health

1. Gum Disease

Symptoms of periodontal (gum) disease include sensitive and inflamed gums. This disease begins with bacterial growth in your mouth and, if left untreated, may result in tooth and bone loss. 

If you suspect that your gums are inflamed, take care to visit your local dentist. An early diagnosis of gum disease is critical to protect your gums and teeth from severe loss. 

Is gum disease something a family member has been diagnosed with? Be sure to mention this to your local dentist, as well. 

2. Tooth Decay

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, tooth decay is characterized by damage to the surface of your teeth, otherwise known as enamel. 

Cavities are the most commonly known term to describe tooth decay. Did you know that the presence of cavities can be traced back to your ancestors? There are certain variations of the gene “beta-defensin 1” (DEFB1) that are associated with a higher risk of cavities. 

Your local dentist will have the expertise and knowledge on diagnosing a cavity in your mouth. 

3. Oral Cancer

Close to 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer and it is known to cause over 9,750 deaths in a year. While tobacco and alcohol use, HPV, ago, and sun exposure are the primary causes of this deadly cancer, genetics can also play a minor role. 

Some people carry certain genetic markers that are associated with a greater risk for developing oral cancer. 

4. Misaligned Teeth

If you have crooked teeth and need braces, chances are you’re not the only one in your family. Your family genetics play a significant role in determining the size of your jaw. Generally, a small jaw can cause the overcrowding of teeth, gaps, overbites and underbites. 

Be sure to visit your local dentist if you suspect tooth misalignment in your child. Early orthodontic treatment can benefit many young children, which will allow for jaw bones and teeth to grow in properly. 

If you’re one of those people whose parents and grandparents had excellent teeth and oral health, be sure to thank them! 

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