Genetics & Dentistry: What to Know about Your Personal Dental Potential

Genetics are to blame for many factors of our health, from weight gain to cancer disposition, and genetics plays some kind of role in just about everything that happens to our bodies. The same is true of dental health. While our genes can’t be blamed entirely for our dental health problems, they do set us up for certain problems. It can be helpful to be aware of the role genetics plays when planning your oral health regimen.

Birth Defects

The most obvious way in which genetics affects dental health comes from birth-related problems. There are a variety of genetically-based birth defects that can affect the mouth and teeth. This includes the infamous cleft palate. It is also the reason behind extra or missing teeth. While baby teeth fall out, and abnormalities with baby teeth are usually not a problem after childhood, genetic disorders can cause extra or missing adult teeth as well.

These problems tend to affect the entire mouth because they can disrupt the positioning and growth of regular teeth. Most people with extra or missing teeth will need intensive dental care, pulling the teeth or using braces or implants to correct the problems.

Diet and Food Preference

Taste has been strongly linked to genetic factors, and what you eat plays a very strong role in your dental health. Genes tend to give people a disposition for certain foods, especially sweet foods, and may even affect a person’s ability to taste a food at all. This was studied with cilantro. People who lacked the genetic ability to taste cilantro said the herb tasted like soap.

A person’s preference for sweets, as well as their preference for other foods that support dental health, like vegetables, will affect their likelihood of developing tooth decay. Actually choosing the healthy foods is entirely a matter of choice and lifestyle. Science also tells us that a person can actively change their tastes and preferences depending on what they eat consistently. Those able to get over the hump with strict no-sugar diets often lose the taste for sugary sweets and find fruits equally satisfying. It is important to note the limits of genetic predisposition when it comes to food choices. Don’t blame genes for a bad diet.

Enamel Strength

Tooth enamel is one of the most important factors when it comes to tooth decay. The enamel is like the armor that protects the tooth. The stronger that armor is, the more resistant a person will be to cavities. Scientists have found that various people have different natural levels of enamel strength. Those with naturally strong enamel will be able to get away with more abuse before developing a cavity. Those with weaker enamel will need to be more careful and get more consistent dental care.

Metabolism

Diet plays a strong role in overall physical health and oral health, but the value of healthy foods only goes so far as a person’s ability to get the nutrients out of those foods. Science has found that some people are better at absorbing these nutrients compared to others. Digestion is a complicated process that begins with saliva and ends in the large intestine, with a lot happening around the stomach and pancreas. Getting the right nutrients, especially calcium, vitamin D and potassium, is critical for dental health. A person who happens to be less efficient at nutrient absorption will need to eat more healthy foods to achieve the same effect.

The Dentist’s Role

Whether you come equipped with a genetic profile that is stellar or terrible, your mouth will still benefit from professional care from a Hayward dental clinic. The general conclusion from scientists is that 60 percent of your dental health is genetic and 40 percent is due to lifestyle and care. Many dental problems are correctable or reversible with professional care when they are spotted early. Even if you are one of those people who just never seems to get a cavity, it’s worthwhile to have routine examinations and cleanings.

Genetics plays a very strong role in dental health, but that never excuses lifestyle choices. The choice of foods and good dental hygiene make a significant difference in lifetime dental health regardless of genetic factors. Some people just have to work a little harder than others to keep a healthy smile.

the author

"Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan."

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