Our genes influence nearly everything about us, so it’s certainly true that aspects of our dental
health would be linked to our parents and other family members. However, just how much of
our oral health is the result of our genes and how much is influenced by our actions?
The truth is that both play a role in how healthy your teeth and gums are. Read on to find out if
your genes could be affecting your risk for cavities, gum disease, oral cancer, and more.
You May Be Predisposed to Cavities and Gum Disease
Certain gene variations of the gene beta defensin 1 (DEFB1) are linked to an increase in cavities.
If you have this gene or a variation of it, you could be at a higher risk for cavities. Gum disease
may also be hereditary as well. If you know one or more family members that have gum
disease, you could have an increased chance of getting it.
However, none of these factors will solely determine whether or not you get cavities or gum
disease. You are largely responsible for taking care of your teeth. With regular care, you can
combat your risk despite a genetic predisposition, but if you neglect your smile, you increase
your risk for oral health problems even without one.
The Shape of Your Mouth Plays a Role
The size and shape of our teeth as well as our jaw is largely influenced by our parents. The
structure of your mouth can also set the stage for your oral health—if your teeth are tight and
crowded, they’ll be more difficult to clean and may require orthodontic treatment so that you
can have a healthy smile.
It’s more likely that the structure of your mouth that you inherited from your parents is
influencing your oral health rather than genes or a predisposition to gum disease. If you haven’t
seen an orthodontist yet but are prone to cavities and gum disease, see if orthodontic
treatment could help you have a healthier smile.
What You Can Do
Genes may also determine if you have a higher risk for oral cancer, meaning that if a family
member has or has had oral cancer, you might be at risk too. However, there are lifestyle
factors that are much more likely to affect your oral cancer risk, such as smoking or chewing
tobacco, drinking alcohol, and eating a poor diet.
The takeaway message is that while genes can certainly influence your oral health, cavities,
gum disease, and oral cancer aren’t explicitly hereditary. Just because a family member has
them does not mean you will. It’s imperative that you take the best possible care of your smile
to minimize your risk regardless of what your genes are!
There are so many things that influence our health, but it’s important to remember that you
have the power over your oral health. By visiting your dentist regularly as well as brushing and
flossing, you can curb your risk for gum disease and cavities. By seeking orthodontic treatment
if necessary and not smoking, you can help minimize your risk and exercise control over your