You might be able to thank your folks for your striking good looks, but have you ever wondered if you inherited your smile from mum and dad too? While many things in your life happen because of your decisions, several outcomes are also because of your history. For example, your supposed bad teeth may be a predisposition from your parents.
This article explores the link between genetics and dentition. Find out whether or not you have the right to blame your parents for your dental problems.
The Connection Between Genetics and Oral Health
Not brushing your teeth, forgetting to floss, and other poor dental hygiene habits remain the primary causes of terrible oral health. However, science says genetics plays a role in specific conditions, such as tooth decay and crooked teeth.
Here are some ways your bad teeth might have been passed down to you and what to do to beat your genes at their own game.
How tooth enamel forms
Research explains that tooth discolouration stems from genes and environmental factors. However, the way the enamel is formed is mainly genetic. Those with naturally thinner enamel are more prone to yellowing, sensitivity, and decay – thanks to wear and tear from rough brushing or age.
The brilliance of your smile is determined as early as in the womb. The tooth enamel’s development can be affected by certain medications like the antibiotic tetracycline or excess fluoride your mother took while you were in utero.
Still, you can’t blame your parents completely because external factors, such as smoking or consuming specific foods, play bigger roles in tooth discolouration. Brush your teeth regularly and avoid sugary, acidic, or staining food items.
Resistance to tooth decay
Don’t blame your mum for your caries. A 2017 study shows that tooth decay is largely due to environmental factors – not genes! Cavities form when you consume food high in sugar that turns into acid. These acids produce bacteria that erodes the enamel and causes cavities.
Bacteria on the teeth doesn’t appear until much later after a baby’s first teeth sprout. One study in the Journal of Microbiological Methods compares the number of bacteria in identical and fraternal twins. Although genetic links in bacteria were found in the DNA, none were associated with tooth decay.
A genetic factor that might affect how prone your teeth are to tooth decay is your immune system. Those with weaker immune systems are more likely to have cavities and gum disease because of their inability to ward off infections. Strong teeth come from a strong body, so take care of yourself.
Ability to produce saliva
Saliva helps rinse bacteria and plaque from the mouth. It also balances pH levels in the mouth and delivers vital minerals like fluoride, calcium, and phosphate to your teeth.
However, individuals with certain gene variants produce more saliva than others. Moreover, women also generate less saliva than men.
Again, don’t be so quick to write your parents off as the sole donors of your misaligned bite. A paper in the International Journal of Anthropology confirms genetic and environmental factors contribute to crooked teeth. Misalignment can be influenced by the number and size of your teeth, the shape of your jaw, and even how you chew. While most are genetic, other behaviours that begin at birth, such as thumb sucking and pushing your tongue against the teeth, could also cause crooked teeth.
Can “Bad Teeth” Affect Your Health?
Yes, crooked teeth can impact your health more than you’d expect. When teeth are misaligned, they’re harder to keep clean, leading to issues like gum disease and tooth decay. Some other problems that stem from misalignment include difficulty chewing, bad breath, and chronic headaches.
How to Prevent Genetics From Straining Your Smile
While you can’t do much about your eye colour and large pores, there are some steps you can take to minimise and prevent genetically “bad teeth” from affecting your smile. When it comes down to it, prioritising your oral hygiene and seeing your dentist regularly are just some ways your teeth can dodge the gene bullet.
1. Practise proper oral hygiene.
Brush and floss your teeth twice a day. Consider using mouthwash if saliva production is a problem for you. To protect your teeth from tooth decay, increase fluoride exposure. It doesn’t have to be just in your toothpaste. You might get an extra boost of fluoride from your water supply or certain periodontic treatments. Be careful not to let your little ones get too much of it. An excessive amount of fluoride in children can result in dental fluorosis, which appears as spots or marks on the teeth in the early stages of development.
2. Adjust your diet.
Although you don’t have to avoid sweets altogether, you should limit your intake of sugary foods. To satisfy your sweet tooth, grab some fruit instead. Crunchy, fibre-rich fruits and vegetables can help clean your teeth and give them a good scrubbing due to their high water content.
You know that drinking water is good for your overall health, but apart from keeping you hydrated, chugging H20 throughout the day will also help hydrate your mouth and rinse out any leftover food particles or acids from your meals.
3. Treat misaligned teeth.
Even if you can’t blame your parents (completely) for it, there’s no harm in getting treatment for your crooked teeth so you can flash them a smile worthy enough for them to say it runs in the family. ClearCorrect premier dental aligners feature a multi-layer, medical-grade, transparent plastic that gives you a stunningly natural look. This device applies gentle but firm pressure to shift your teeth where they need to be, making dental care more manageable.
Bad teeth revive the age-old discussion of nature versus nurture. For the lucky few, a set of strong, evenly spaced teeth is something they were born with. But just because your pearly whites are more unruly does not mean you should just sit back and let the plaque grow. Maintaining good oral hygiene, a healthy diet, and following recommendations from your dentist will make you – and your parents – more proud of what you have.
Townsend, G., Hughes, T., & Richards, L. (2006). Gaining New Insights into How Genetic Factors Influence Human Dental Development by Studying Twins. International Journal of Anthropology, 21(1), 67–74.
Simon, J. B., DiCarlo, L. M., Kruger, C., Johnson, W. D., Kappen, C., & Richards, B. K. (2015). Gene expression in salivary glands: effects of diet and mouse chromosome 17 locus regulating macronutrient intake. Physiological Reports, 3(2), e12311.
Di Bella, J. M., Bao, Y., Gloor, G. B., Burton, J. P., & Reid, G. (2013). High throughput sequencing methods and analysis for microbiome research. Journal of Microbiological Methods, 95(3), 401–414.
Gomez, A., Espinoza, J. L., Harkins, D. M., Leong, P., Saffery, R., Bockmann, M., Torralba, M., Kuelbs, C., Kodukula, R., Inman, J. M., Hughes, T., Craig, J. M., Highlander, S. K., Jones, M. D., Dupont, C. L., & Nelson, K. E. (2017). Host Genetic Control of the Oral Microbiome in Health and Disease. Cell Host & Microbe, 22(3), 269-278.e3.
Hattab, F. N., Qudeimat, M. A., & Al-Rimawi, H. S. (1999). Dental Discoloration: An Overview. Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry, 11(6), 291–310.