At Gustafson Morningstar Dentistry in Royal Oak MI, we stay abreast of new discoveries in the exciting field of dentistry and like to share interesting facts with our patients. This blog post focuses on new findings in an intriguing field of research: genetic dentistry.
“About 60% of the risk for tooth decay appears to be due to genetic factors,” said Mary L. Marazita, director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine.1
Whoa! Did she say 60%? That’s huge. You might be thinking: “That’s why I brush and floss but still get cavities.” Or, better yet, you might be thinking, “No wonder I have never had a cavity, even though I eat candy often and occasionally go to bed without brushing.”
A recent article on CNN.com highlights tooth decay risk factors that have a genetic link1:
Your genes play an important role in the composition of your tooth enamel. Soft enamel is more cavity prone.
Whether or not you love sugar has a genetic basis. Now you can blame your parents if you pop M&Ms all day. (But it still isn’t good for your teeth or waistline!)
Chemical Composition of Saliva
Your saliva can protect against cavities – if it properly metabolizes essential minerals and vitamins like calcium, potassium, iron, and Vitamin C. Your genes impact your saliva’s ability to prevent decay.
Immune Response to Bacteria
We don’t like to think about the harmful bacteria in our mouth, but hopefully our immune system is ever-vigilant at fighting their constant attempts to cause decay and gum disease. The durability of your immune system is determined, in part, by genetics.
In the next few decades, scientists in the emerging specialty of genetic dentistry may play a key role in the development of new cavity prevention techniques.
The purpose of this article is not to encourage Gustafson Morningstar Dentistry patients to be lax about oral hygiene if their parents have strong teeth. Nor to cause those whose teeth decay easily to throw their hands up in despair and resign themselves to a toothless mouth.
Proper oral hygiene is critical for all of us, regardless of our genetic predisposition to tooth decay. You have the ability to be forward-thinking about your oral health, regardless of the genes you inherited. Whether you have frequent dental check-ups, consistent fluoride intake, effective brushing and flossing techniques, and proper nutrition, is up to you.
1Paul Frysh, “Bad teeth? Blame your genes,” CNN, July 3, 2014, https://www.cnn.com/2014/07/03/health/tooth-decay-causes/, accessed on June 24, 2015
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