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How Your Genes Affect Your Dental Health

Dental check

One reason your doctor or dentist may ask you about your family history (rather than just your own personal medical history) is that some medical conditions can run in families. This can be due to shared genetics; someone with a genetic predisposition to a condition may pass down those genes to the next generation.

Your dental health is just as easily affected by genetic conditions and issues as your overall health. Some genetic predispositions can affect oral health directly, while others may cause mental or physical conditions that then create problems for your oral health status.

Here are some of the basics on how your genes can affect your dental health.

Genes May Increase Chances of Periodontal Disease

Genes can increase or decrease your susceptibility to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a very serious condition that can involve losing your teeth. Although typically gum disease starts out as the less-serious gingivitis, it can devolve into periodontitis if not treated properly.

However, keep in mind that the genetic factor is only one part of the cause of gum disease. Other factors such as how stressed you are and whether or not you smoke also play a part. So if everyone else in your family has gum disease, don’t let that discourage you from taking the best possible care of your own teeth.

Genes May Cause Systemic and Chronic Conditions

Some systemic and chronic conditions can affect your dental health, either directly or indirectly. One example of an indirect effect is when a medication you take for a medical condition causes dry mouth. Dry mouth lessens the saliva flowing around your teeth so they’re less protected from food debris, bacterial growth, plaque, and cavities.

Systemic and chronic conditions such as diabetes can also cause oral health problems directly. Diabetes patients may suffer from periodontal disease, cavities, dry mouth, and other issues.

Genes Affect Factors Like Tooth Positioning and Cavities

Your genetic makeup influences your physical appearance: the color of your eyes, the length of your nose, and so on. The same goes for your teeth. Do you have one of your baby teeth still because the permanent tooth below it was missing? This is from a genetic condition called congenitally missing teeth. As the name indicates, it’s due to a genetic factor.

Other tooth conditions that your genes could cause (or at least increase chances of) include things like cavities and crooked teeth. Even oral cancer may be influenced by genetics.

Genes Can Affect Your Mental Health

Although the science of what causes mental health conditions still needs work, the fact that mental health issues can be passed down indicates that genetics could be involved. So your genetic makeup could mean that you’re predisposed to a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression.

Anxiety and depression may often affect your health by making you feel unmotivated to perform the best possible hygiene or simply by causing you to grind your teeth in your sleep (known as bruxism). These mental health conditions could also affect stress hormones and your immune system, making it harder for your mouth to fight off cavity-causing bacteria.

As you can see, your distinctive genetic makeup could contain one or several factors that could put you at a higher risk for some type of oral health problem later in life. Talk to your dentist about how you can counter this susceptibility. Depending on the issue, your dentist could recommend something like more frequent checkups or a special prescription toothpaste.

Dr. Jerry F. Maymi & Associates offer many dental services to cover any oral issues you may have. We also offer preventive dental care to help you keep your teeth healthy and ward off any problems before they materialize. For more information or to discuss setting up an appointment, contact our office today.