How many times do we use the excuse, "yeah, what can I say, it runs in the family!" We use that old saying as a buffer to excuse away our flaws, bad habits and things about ourselves that, we would like to think, really aren't entirely our fault. Is it more than a cliche? As we experience trouble in our dental health journey, are there pre-determined causes wrapped up in our DNA that make us prone to tooth decay and dental oral health issues that come as a result of our inherited genetic make-up?
The first of five different areas of genetic traits that can be passed down from generations is gum disease. Gum disease, otherwise known as periodontal disease, is the effects of swollen, sore and infected gums and, in some cases, bleeding gums and bad breath accompany these other symptoms. Up to 30% of families see a trend among family members that struggle with gum disease. Our genes do determine how our teeth develop and when our teeth don't develop properly, tooth enamel can be compromised which causes it to not be as effective in fighting bacteria. Deformed or crooked teeth can be difficult to clean, leading to an increase in bacteria which raises the risk for gum disease. It is always important to mention family history of health conditions like this to your doctor and dentist as it can aid them in successfully treating your overall health.
Tooth decay is another condition with a correlation in genetics passing down through family generations. Tooth decay is when the enamel (the hard outer layer of your teeth) is worn down, and plaque (bacteria) forms on your teeth. Eating foods and drinking liquids with large amounts of sugar helps to produce acids that attack tooth enamel and chewing surfaces, which over time can cause cavities. Researchers have found that different forms of the gene beta-defensin-1 (DEFB1) are linked to a larger risk of developing cavities in the permanent teeth. The best way to prevent tooth decay is properly brush your teeth twice a day and avoid sugary foods and drinks when possible.
Oral cancer is another condition that is diagnosed in over 200,000 Americans per year. People who carry specific genetic markers are at a higher risk for developing oral cancer. The majority of cases of oral cancer are found in individuals who smoke, people that use smokeless tobacco, those that consume large amounts of alcoholic beverages, too much sun exposure - mostly as children, and those diagnosed with the HPV virus. Those individuals with a family history of cancer must always be on the lookout for any health issues that emerge. Early diagnosis is vitally important.
Metal Mouth, Brace Face, just a few of the "lovely" names you might have heard, attached to those of us who were faced with the undaunting task of needing and wearing braces. Teeth out of alignment, gaps and spaces, and overbites and underbites are just a few unfortunate conditions that explain the need for braces. Researchers have found that genetics do play a large role in the shape and size of your jaw, the number of teeth you have, and how your teeth fit together when you chew. These are all determining factors in whether or not your teeth will be spaced out proportionately or overcrowded, whether or not you could end up with an overbite or an underbite, and if you will experience gaps between your teeth. All these different scenarios can and will determine the need for braces from a genetic standpoint.
Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing are always the best ways to help prevent tooth decay and cavities, but sometimes kids can use some extra help and protection for their back teeth, otherwise known as molars. Molars are bumpy and rough with extra grooves and pockets, making it easier for food particles and bacteria to hide from brushing and flossing. Helping this issue are dental sealants, a thin coating of dental materials or plastic, that sticks to the back teeth (molars) helping to protect the teeth from the bacteria that causes cavities and tooth decay. Sealants are an extra added bonus to help the tooth enamel do its job. The American Dental Association recommends dental sealants as a positive way to help children in the fight against tooth decay and cavities. The CDC did a study in 2016 and found that school age children that did not have sealants had three times more occurrences of cavities than children who had sealants. It's important that you and your children visit your dentist twice a year to keep a close check on your dental health.
Cavities are really not what you want to hear when you visit your dentist. The thought of hearing one of those dental drills vibrating its empty echo throughout the dentist office is enough of a fear factor to make you want to do ANYTHING to help prevent cavities at all costs! A cavity, simply described, is a hole in your tooth. They can be tiny or big, appear white, brown or black and can appear anywhere in your mouth but most often you find them on your chewing surfaces, the part of your teeth where plaque bacteria gathers most. Cavities and tooth decay abound when someone is eating lots of sugary foods and drinks with a high sugar content and not properly caring for their teeth. The American Dental Association says the best ways to help prevent cavities are brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, drinking water that contains fluoride, avoid an excess of food and drinks with sugar, floss your teeth everyday, visit your dentist twice a year and ask your dental health professional about sealants for your back teeth where cavities are more commonly found, these areas where bacteria is at a high level. A cavity is not the end of the world, but why not do everything you can to improve your dental health! Cavity prevention is your best option. Tooth decay does not get the last word in your story!
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