A person’s genetics can tell you a lot about them—the color of their hair and eyes, where their family originally comes from, the shade of their skin…But when it comes to the teeth, how big of a role does genetics play? If your parents have bad teeth, then is your smile doomed? Or, if you already have bad teeth, will your children inevitably rack up large dental bills? Fortunately, according to your dentist in Oklahoma City, while genetics definitely do matter, when it concerns how healthy and strong the teeth are, this is largely in people’s control.
How Genetics Influence the Teeth
So which dental traits are actually passed down from parent to child? In truth, quite a few, but the most important ones include:
- The strength of the enamel
- The amount/type of bacteria present in the mouth
- The size of the jaw (which influences how the teeth come in)
- The spacing of the teeth
All of these can definitely have a direct impact on a person’s oral health. Someone with weaker enamel or a certain strain of bacteria in their mouth may be more susceptible to developing cavities and gum disease. Depending on the size of the jaw and spacing of the teeth, this could lead to orthodontic issues that throw off the bite and make it more difficult to clean the teeth. However…
…It’s Mostly About Lifestyle
Fortunately, no matter what kind of genetic cards someone has been dealt, when it comes to the strength and health of their smile, genetics are no match for basic dental care.
Simple habits like brushing and flossing the teeth twice a day are all that’s needed to keep enamel (even particularly weak enamel) cavity-free, especially if someone uses a fluoridated toothpaste, which can significantly strengthen it over time. Consistent oral hygiene also controls the balance of bacteria in the mouth, lowering the chances of infection. These at-home practices should be coupled with biannual visits to the dentist so that any problems can be caught and treated as early as possible.
When it comes to how the teeth are spaced and the size of the jaw, these kinds of issues can be largely corrected by orthodontics and even prevented altogether if a child visits a dentist starting at an early age and maintains their oral hygiene.
Another factor that shouldn’t be forgotten is diet. One of the biggest precursors for all types of dental issues is a diet that’s rich in foods with added sugar, i.e. candy, sodas, juices, etc. By limiting their consumption of sugary treats and beverages, a person will be providing much less fuel for the oral bacteria that can cause problems.
So…Do Genetics Really Matter?
When it comes to the health of your teeth, not really. So, if you have a parent with terrible teeth, don’t worry that a compromised smile is inevitably in you or your children’s futures. Just by brushing, flossing, visiting the dentist, and saving sweets for special occasions, you and your entire family tree can enjoy a beautiful set of white teeth.
About the Author
Dr. Michael Kirk is a family, cosmetic, and dental implant dentist based in Oklahoma City. Born and educated right here in the Sooner State, Dr. Kirk has been serving local families for almost 30 years, so if anyone would know how genetics affects the smile, he would! To learn more about everything you’ve just read or schedule your next checkup and cleaning, click here.