Studies on whether or not our genetics are a contributing factor to our oral health have been limited, but as research continues the link is becoming more clear. We commonly see the patients that have similar home care habits and lifestyle choices, however, one patient is developing oral health disease while the other is not. To avoid victim blaming, it is important to understand all of the factors that play a role in our oral health.
Newer studies are showing an overall conclusion that genetics play a larger role in our oral health than we had previously understood. Genetic testing has shown that our oral bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease can be inherited. Continued studies have shown that other inherited genes are also affecting our oral health such as salivary content, tooth development, and metabolic factors.
Another factor that greatly influences our oral health is other systemic disease such as heart disease or diabetes. Diabetes is caused by both genetic and environmental factors, however, having diabetes can make you three times more likely to develop periodontal disease (gum disease). This means that genetic roles in our total body health is influencing our oral health as well.
Other inheritable oral health conditions that are passed through genetics include
- Missing teeth or extra teeth
- Cleft lip or cleft palate
- Enamel defects
While we are now seeing more links between our genetics and our oral health, it is very important not to dismiss the critical role of the environmental factors that are damaging to the oral cavity. Poor home care, smoking, and high sugar diets are still leading in the causes of oral health conditions. Therefore, if you are already at higher risk due to genetics it is even more important to take appropriate action to maintain a healthy mouth.
Some of the best things we can do for our oral health include:
- Practicing good home care habits such as brushing twice daily, flossing daily, and using an oral health care rinse.
- Using products with fluoride and/or xylitol to aid in remineralization of damaged surfaces
- Limiting foods and beverages with high sugar and carbohydrates
- Seeing your dental health care provider once every six months to prevent and treat early stages of oral disease