You floss everyday, brush by the book (2-3 times per day, 45 degree angle, 2-3 minutes) and still find yourself with a mouthful of cavities every six months. Meanwhile, you have that friend who brushes once a day, only flosses the day of their check up and is told, “Great job, keep it up, no cavities here!”
While this is wildly unfair, you are not alone. Some people just have bad teeth, genetically speaking. In fact, billions of people worldwide suffer from tooth decay. It’s the most common chronic disease out there. More and more research is being done to find out “why?” in the growing field of “genetic dentistry.”
Mary L. Marazita of the University of Pittsburgh School of Dentistry told CNN that 60% of the risk for tooth decay seems to stem from genetics. Marazita, director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics, outlined the five areas where genes play a large role in tooth decay.
#1 Tooth Enamel
This is the most obvious factor in the genetics of tooth decay. Your tooth enamel is primarily determined by genetics, thereby automatically leaving you at an advantage or disadvantage (depending on your gene pool). Softer enamel makes it easier for bacteria to move in and takeover your teeth.
Scientists have identified variations in genes that indicate different levels of “sweet preference.” It seems if you gravitate towards sweets, you are all the more likely to develop tooth decay. Having a sweet tooth is certainly not the only factor in tooth decay, it’s just one piece of the genetic puzzle.
#3 Taste Ability
This area measures the variety of things you can taste, not just if you have a predisposition for certain flavors, but if you can even distinguish specific flavors. In a recent study performed by Chemical Senses, participants gave their feedback on the taste of cilantro. While many enjoyed it, others stated that it literally tasted like soap. That response indicates they are missing the gene variant that can perceive the flavor of cilantro.
The study found that if you possess a more varied genetic taste ability, you are less likely to develop tooth decay. Scientists are still unclear as to why this directly impacts the likeliness of tooth decay. Some believe this wider variety in taste leads to less consumption of sweets, but this has yet to be proven.
#4 Saliva Strength
Through different studies, scientists have discovered that some peoples’ saliva is better at metabolizing foods than others. Those with stronger saliva are better at metabolizing calcium, potassium and other elements important to healthy teeth.
From your tongue to the surface of your teeth to under your gums, your mouth alone has multiple communities of bacteria (known as your microbiome). This is very normal, however studies found that your body’s immune response to these communities affects your risk of developing tooth decay. It’s simply another factor determined by genetics.
The Other 40%:
You’re probably wondering about the other 40% that determines your susceptibility to tooth decay. The answer is akin to that devil on your left shoulder and the angel on your right, soft drinks and fluoride.
Yes, other factors like smoking habits, dental care availability, culture, brushing frequency, etc. all play into that 40%, but the single biggest factor scientists found is the consumption of sugary drinks. Even just one sugary treat can hurt if you are already at a genetic dental disadvantage. Surprisingly, tea, coffee and alcohol are all worlds better for your teeth than soda.
That angel on your shoulder though, is fluoride. It can be the difference in your level of tooth decay, even if you are genetically bound for tooth aches. You can get doses of it in your city water, toothpaste and most importantly, when you come see us every six months!
Be sure to set up your six month checkup! If you haven’t already, call us today (215) 564-1025!