Your family’s medical history is a good predictor for your general risk of developing diabetes, heart disease or cancer. But research indicates that genetic factors also play a role in your risk for tooth decay and gum disease.
According to the director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, roughly 60 percent of dental health is influenced by genes, while the rest can be chocked up to proper oral hygiene, environmental factors and lifestyle. This may help explain why some individuals who rarely floss, eat tons of sugary sweets and brush less than they should never develop cavities, while the most diligent of flossers and tooth brushers are prone to gingivitis, receding gums and decay.
Why is this news so important? By understanding your genetic dentistry, you can be proactive in the care of your teeth and gums, protecting your pearly whites for years to come. If left untreated, tooth decay and cavities can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss – a prospect few people want to face.
Dr. Mary L. Marazita of the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine breaks down the science of genes and how they affect our risk for tooth decay. She says that genes are partially responsible for certain taste abilities as well as dietary and sweet preferences, which all influence our susceptibility to cavities.
Saliva that is rich in minerals like potassium and calcium helps fight acid erosion on tooth enamel, thus reducing the chances of decay. Scientists have discovered gene variants that make some people better at metabolizing these minerals better than others, making them less likely to develop cavities.
Thin or “soft” tooth enamel, which is more vulnerable to bacterial invasion and infection than hard enamel, is also largely determined by genetics.
Gene variations also affect our food cravings, especially for sugary treats. Research indicates that candy-holics (those with a super strong sweet preference) are more prone to cavities.
Your ability to enjoy and taste a wide range of foods is also influenced by genes. Researchers have found that people with a broad genetic taste ability profile are less inclined to suffer from tooth decay. The reason for this link is not clear, but some speculate this variety may keep us from snacking on too many sweets.
Further studies at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine have found that variations in a gene called beta defensin 1 (DEFB1) affects the rate of cavities and periodontal disease in study participants. The findings make sense considering that DEFB1 is one of our first-line immune responses against germs.
If you practice great oral hygiene, get regular cleanings and yet are still prone to cavities, it’s time to have a personal consultation with Long Island dentists, Dr. Elliot and Dr. Nick. After evaluating your medical and genetic dental history, they can offer suggestions that take into consideration your current lifestyle habits and concerns.
Get back in the driver’s seat when it comes to your oral health: contact Long Island Implant & Cosmetic Dentistry today at 631.319.7891.
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