One of the concerns about cavities is if they are genetic. Cavities often lead to tooth loss and many people wonder about the prognosis of their teeth. People often try to predict their dental health the way that they predict their systemic health. For example, if I have a grandparent that had diabetes, I am likely to become diabetic. Along the same lines, if my grandparents and parents wore dentures at the age of 40, will I lose my teeth around the same age? The answer is that tooth loss and predicting a family member’s dental health depends on the cause.
Teeth can be lost due to periodontal disease, trauma, and/or caries. Periodontal disease is caused by the presence of specific bacteria that lead to inflammation and the breakdown of the peridontium (gums and bone). The heritability of periodontal disease has been found to be about 50%. There are a number of contributing factors including environmental and health conditions that increase the risk for periodontal disease. Diabetes or smoking can worsen periodontal health. And monogenic congenital conditions like Papillon-Lefèvre can lead to aggressive periodontitis. If some or all teeth are lost due to periodontal disease, then there is a chance of a genetic link to susceptibility to periodontal disease.
However, when teeth are lost to caries (cavities or decay in enamel/dentin tissue), there is a higher environmental correlation to cavities than genetic relation. Conditions like amelogenesis imperfecta (enamel does not form completely) have a gene called Amelogenin linked to them. The hardness of enamel is genetic and the softer a person’s enamel is, the more likely they are to develop decay. Caries (tooth decay) studies have shown anywhere from 20% to 85% in the role of genetic control. Which means the link of genetics to cavities is very variable. That is good news for most people. Because the acidity of our mouth (pH) and the foods or drinks that we consume can be controlled to reduce the risk of developing a cavity. Regular dental check ups can help patients and their dentists determine each person’s risk for developing cavities.
If you have any questions or concerns about tooth decay or cavities, contact us at Museum Smiles for a consultation. We are happy to discuss preventive habits for having a healthy mouth. Our office is located within a few minutes of Downtown Fort Worth and within walking distance of the Modern museum.