It’s not uncommon to hear among patients, “He has great teeth just like his mom,” or “She inherited those teeth problems from her dad.” At South Charlotte Dentistry, we’re interested in these statements, and pose a similar question: how much, if any, of our oral health is genetic, and how much is influenced by our personal oral healthcare and hygiene? We can also share what you can do to improve your dental health at any stage in your life, regardless of hereditary influence.
Are most dental problems hereditary?
In short, it depends! Some problems are hereditary, meaning you are born with a predisposition to more problematic teeth or are more likely to develop a problem without early intervention or great healthcare. Other dental issues cannot be linked to genetics, and are caused by the care we give our teeth. In modern medicine and with excellent dental tools available to the public, many genetic oral health problems can be solved with early intervention and a consistent and thorough dental routine.
Inherited Issues for Problematic Teeth
Some oral cancer can be linked to genetics, but many factors can play into whether cancer develops. Genetics is not a guarantee to developing cancer.
Just as your hair color and height are physical characteristics passed down through genetics, the shape of your teeth and the structure of your jaw are hereditary. Overcrowded teeth or misaligned jaws can create issues that even while you’re taking great care of your teeth, you may have increased potential for more issues without orthodontic intervention.
Did you know your enamel’s thickness and strength are impacted by your genetics? Enamel is essentially protecting your teeth from decay. If you’re predisposed to thin enamel, your teeth will be far more prone to problems.
Did you know that your genetics influence your taste preferences? Whether you like or dislike the taste of something can be determined by genetics. While these taste preferences may not occur frequently or pose much of an impact, say if someone has a sweet tooth rooted in their genetics, that gravitation toward sugary foods can increase their chance of developing cavities.
While all oral health problems cannot be blamed on your genes, understanding your family’s oral health history can help your dental health team to proactively minimize developing further problems. Most inherited oral issues or diseases are not based on a single gene defect, but rather from gene-environment interactions, meaning your dental hygiene habits, environment, and genetics can help or hurt your oral health.
Environmental and Habit Oral Health Problems
Teeth grinding (bruxism)
Grinding your teeth causes you to lose bone over time and damage your gums. While out of your control, grinding can be caused by stress, an abnormal bite, sleep disorders, or missing and crooked teeth.
Using teeth as tools
You wear away at your teeth’s enamel whenever you use your teeth as a tool to bite or tear at something (e.g. chewing on a pen, biting your fingernails, ripping open a package), aren’t flossing correctly, or are brushing your teeth too hard. These are examples of abrasion on teeth. In turn, if you end up fracturing or cracking a tooth, you’re then susceptible to bacteria entering the teeth and causing even more problems.
Consumption of highly acidic or sugary foods and drinks
Food and drink high in acid will eat away at tooth enamel, as well as cause acid reflux, which floods the acid back into the mouth and eats away at the teeth. Foods high in sugar and starches also increase your risk of tooth decay. If you’re not drinking enough water or brushing between meals, your teeth will be more vulnerable.
Lack of early, consistent access to oral healthcare
Children are products of their environment; decisions your parents may have made about your dentist visits (or lack thereof) and how diligent they were about teaching you good oral hygiene have lasting effects on your oral health as an adult today. Even the timing between the first dentist office visit before 5 years of age can significantly decrease the chance of oral disease. Childhood tooth decay is a common chronic disease among children and can impair a child’s overall health, speech, growth, and school performance. Moreover, preventative dental care from a young age has been shown to lead to better oral health outcomes throughout life.
South Charlotte Dentistry: Your Smile is Our Priority
While genetics can play a role in how strong your enamel and teeth are and genetics can predispose you to more severe issues, your oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups are most essential to keeping your teeth and gums healthy. With thorough daily brushing and flossing, as well as other prevention measures like dental cleanings and yearly exams, you can rest assured that you’re taking the right steps to keep your teeth in excellent shape. Be confident that your teeth are on the right track by talking to your team at South Charlotte Dentistry today!