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Are Dental Problems Genetic?

older white woman smiling with straight teeth
Author: cmcgovern Posted: April 30th, 2020 Category:

Most dental issues have a genetic component, but habits and environmental factors also play a key part. 

As you probably know, daily habits play a determining role in your dental health. Sugary and starchy food and drink, alcohol and tobacco use, dehydration, and inadequate dental hygiene can all lead to dental problems. In addition to your habits, environmental factors including your community’s access to dental care and your geographical location can also have a major impact on your teeth. 

But your habits and your environment aren’t the only source of dental problems. Your genetics can and do play a role in your dental health. In fact, genetics can be a determining factor in these common dental problems: 

  • Tooth Decay.

Tooth decay can occur when sugars and carbohydrates are introduced to your mouth, creating an acidic environment that helps bacteria to grow. Oral bacteria creates plaque, a yellowish buildup of bacteria and sugars that sticks to your teeth.

The bacteria in plaque can eat through your enamel, and create a hole in your tooth called a cavity. If dental bacteria continue to thrive, a cavity can quickly turn into tooth decay. Cavities and tooth decay are usually a result of environmental and habitual factors. 

But in addition to your habits and environment, the American Dental Association has demonstrated a link between genetics and higher bacteria buildup. Depending on inherited attributes, you may be more prone to tooth decay than others.

  • Periodontal Disease.

When plaque grows for too long without cleaning, it can turn from soft plaque to hard plaque. Hard plaque becomes wedged between your teeth and your gums, leading to irritation and infection. Over time, periodontitis (infection of the gums) can become periodontal disease, a serious bacterial disease that can lead to tooth loss.

As with tooth decay, the main causes of periodontal disease are environmental and habitual, originating from diet, smoking, alcohol, and hygiene. But, genetics also plays a part in the amount of plaque-inducing bacteria that can build up on your teeth, making certain individuals more vulnerable to periodontal disease than others. 

  • Oral Cancer. 

Most cases of oral cancer are in people who smoke and consume alcohol regularly. But genetics also plays a role in increasing your odds of contracting oral cancer. If someone in your family has suffered from oral cancer, you are more likely to develop the same condition. If you notice a small white or red sore in your mouth, schedule your primary care provider or dentist right away as it may be a malignant growth. 

Seeking treatment for genetic dental problems

The bad news: until gene therapy becomes a widely available treatment option, there’s not much you can do to change your genes. Now for the good news; if you are genetically prone to dental problems, there are steps you can take to make sure your teeth stay healthy. 

To minimize the risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease, make sure to cultivate good dental habits that prevent dental problems. Avoid smoking, regular alcohol consumption, and sugary and starchy foods. As always, remember to brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice daily and to floss at least once daily. 

To ensure your teeth are clean and healthy, you should also visit a dentist for tooth cleaning and checkups at least once every six months. If you begin to develop a cavity or early-stage gum disease, a dental checkup can address the issue before it takes a toll. Regular checkups can also help to detect oral cancer before it spreads. 


For high-quality dental care in the Denver metro area, schedule an appointment with Espire today. We offer dentistry with experienced experts in a patient-friendly environment. If you’re concerned about genetic dental problems, regular appointments with a good dentist can make all the difference.