Have you ever wondered if your child has bad teeth because you do? Here’s the short answer: yes and no.
What it really comes down to is your definition of “bad teeth.” If you’re thinking of crooked or misshapen teeth, then yes, that’s likely a genetic disorder. On the other hand, if you associate having bad teeth with stained or decaying teeth, then no, that’s not caused by genetics. That’s simply caused by bad dental habits. Here’s the difference:
The genes you or your child inherit are actually the cause of 60% of the cavities one might get. Let’s hope your family has beautiful pearly whites, right? To put it simply, some of the things you CAN inherit include:
- Poorly Aligned Teeth
- Misshapen Teeth
- Sensitive Teeth or Gums
- Malformed or Missing Teeth
There are other conditions that can be inherited, but they are mainly things that relate to the above. But that’s not all! There are other things that can be inherited that can lead to damaged teeth in the future. These things are:
- Soft Tooth Enamel. It sounds obvious when you think about it: some people have softer or stronger tooth enamel than others. Tooth enamel is a substance that serves as a shell-like coating around your teeth to protect those chompers from bacteria. If you, however, are in a family where soft tooth enamel is a common trait, bacteria is more likely able to penetrate the tooth, causing more cavities than the average person.
- Preferences of Sweets. It sounds unheard of, but some people just don’t have a sweet tooth. While this isn’t necessarily determined by genetics, you are more likely to love sweets if one of your parents does – and vice versa. Eating a lot of sugar will inevitably damage your teeth, so it might be a good thing if you missed out on that sweet gene.
- Taste. Believe it or not, genetics plays into what you are able to taste. Not simply your preferences (i.e., you enjoy chocolate because your mom does), but your actual ability to taste certain things. This might not have a direct impact on your teeth other than the fact that certain foods might taste much better than others, which – depending on the food – could lead to cavities.
- Saliva Strength. Elements such as potassium or calcium play crucial roles in maintaining strength for healthy teeth. Rather than simply eating the “right” foods, these elements have to be metabolized properly, which is where the saliva comes in. Some people inherit better gene variants than others, allowing their mouth to do its job better in the end.
Pretty crazy, right? If you’ve discovered that you’ve been blessed genetically, go give your parents a high-five or something.
So, since genetics cause 60% of the cavities you get, what about the other 40%? Well that one is all you – not your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. In other words, things that are NOT inherited include:
These conditions are caused by what we call “environmental factors” – which really means your dental habits on a day-to-day basis. This can include:
- Hard or chewy candy
- Drinking a lot of soda, coffee or sugary drinks
- Chewing ice
- Slacking on brushing your teeth regularly
You really do have a moderate amount of control over your dental health, so make sure you habitually clean and take care of your teeth.
3. Set the Pace
Set the example, especially if you have little ones watching and learning from you. Help them care about their teeth by:
- Making it a priority. Yes, life is busy, but not too busy for good dental care! Make a fun morning and night routine that includes brushing and flossing for your little one.
- Making it fun. There are several ways to do this. Read all of our awesome recommendations in our previous blog post about helping your kid have fun at the dentist. You never know what game you might come up with!
So, like we said, the answer is a complicated one. Next time you get a cavity, don’t blame it completely on those crazy ancestors.
Do you have good or bad dental genetics? Let us know in the comments!