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What your family history says about your teeth

March 06, 2019


Your genetics may provide a window into your risk for oral health issues. Understanding your family history can help you stay prepared to keep cavities and gum disease at bay. 

Your parents probably told you candy causes cavities, but that’s not the only thing that causes them. Risk for cavities is 60 percent due to genetic factors such as preference for sweets, teeth enamel strength and saliva composition, according to the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. If members of your family often develop cavities, you might want to talk with your dentist about sealants or fluoride treatments.

Genetics also play a role in gum disease, meaning you may have a predisposition for gum disease based on your family history. Gum disease starts with gingivitis, which can cause swollen, red and bleeding gums. Over time, it can develop into a more severe condition called periodontitis if not treated. When this occurs, gums become infected and can lead to eventual tooth loss. If you have a family history of gum disease, stay extra vigilant about gum health by telling your dentist and looking for early signs.

While it’s not genetic, there is a direct relationship between how children take care of their teeth and how their parents do. Children learn the importance of preventive care like brushing, flossing, visiting the dentist and eating healthy predominately from their parents. If they aren’t taught this early on and don’t develop proper habits, they may overlook oral health, leading to problems down the road. 

During your next family reunion, ask uncle Joe and cousin Sarah if they find it easy to keep their smiles healthy. Besides a little extra fodder for conversation, it might help you find some insight into your smile!


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