One element of oral health that patients rarely consider is our family heritage. Ongoing research into the role of genetics in our oral health has shown significant results. Many elements of our dental health are tied to those of our parents and other ancestors. How our teeth and jawbone develop and our ability to ward off periodontal disease and tooth decay are just the most prominent. There’s hope in the fact that many of the complications resulting from genetics can be managed.
The Influence Of Genetics On Our Oral Health
It would be reasonable to state that almost every aspect of our overall health has a genetic element to it. It shouldn’t be surprising that dental health is no different in this regard. The size and shape of our oral cavity are directly related to our genetic past. So too are our jawbone strength and shape, the alignment of our teeth, and our ability to ward off oral diseases. Even our propensity to develop temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) can be directly tied to our family history.
The following oral health issues can be the result of our genetic past:
- Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease) – Statistics have revealed that nearly a third of Americans may have a genetic likelihood to develop gum disease. Sensitive gums that are inflamed and bleed easily after brushing or flossing are common symptoms of this disease. Knowing you have a family history of this condition allows you to take extra steps to keep it at bay. Involving your dentist can be a significant help as well.
- Tooth Decay – One of the leading factors in tooth decay is improper oral hygiene practices. However, even the most diligent practice can still leave you vulnerable to tooth decay if you have a genetic propensity towards it. A common reason for this vulnerability is misaligned teeth that leave crevices for food debris and plaque to build up in. However, genetics can also make it difficult for you to fight off the responsible bacteria.
- Weak Teeth – When teeth are unable to properly incorporate the proper nutrients and minerals, weak teeth can result. While this can happen as part of poor nutrition, it can also have a genetic element. Some patients are unable to properly build and strengthen teeth and need help. Fluoride treatments are one effective method of handling cases like these. Your dentist may have additional suggestions as well.
These are the most common conditions that involve a genetic element, but there are others. Misalignments and natural discoloration of the teeth can be the result of genetic factors. It’s also possible for genetics to make you more likely to develop oral cancer.
How To Address Genetic Causes of Oral Health Concerns
Thankfully even genetic complications can be overcome with good oral hygiene and the help of your dentist. Misalignments can be addressed with the use of orthodontic appliances. Dental discoloration can be countered with teeth whitening treatments. Knowledge of a family’s tendency to develop oral cancer can put both your physician and dentist on guard. The most significant step you can take is informing your dentist of your family history and communicating with them often.