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Did I Inherit Gum Disease?

Modern genetic research continues to uncover fascinating insights into the biological reasons why we’re all different while still bearing characteristics of our parents.  You might need a calculator to follow this one:  If the genetic code from a single cell in your body, known as DNA, is unraveled it’s almost 2 inches long.  We’re built out of approximately 10 trillion of these cells. So if all your DNA were laid end to end, it would reach to the sun and back four times...744 million total miles!  This calculation reminds us that coding passed through the generations carries vital information.  We know heredity plays a role in some dental conditions although our habits can dramatically influence how those problems are expressed.

Have you ever noticed how some kids avoid braces, while others wire up early in life? In many of these cases, one or both of the parents probably lived with the same scenario. Similar to the inheritance of blue eyes, certain characteristics related to tooth development, alignment, and jaw growth are passed along.  Some kids may be missing an important permanent tooth, and studies have shown this to be a genetic trait influenced by environment factors.  Even a trait as simple as a space between the upper front teeth can be inherited.  

Genes Are Part of the Story

But what about gum disease...does it run in the family? A recent study demonstrated that nearly half the risk associated with gum disease is strongly influenced by genetics. About 3 out of 10 people carry this genetic risk.

Gum disease, a complex inflammatory and bacterial condition that destroys the foundation around the teeth, is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.  If you have a parent that struggled with bleeding gums, loose teeth, or ended up with dentures, they may have suffered from gum disease.  This means your risk is significantly higher than average for the same problems.  But the majority of gum problems can be successfully managed to keep the genetic influence at bay.

And gum disease isn’t the only oral affliction coded into our genes. “About 60% of the risk for tooth decay appears to be due to genetic factors,” says Mary L. Marazita, director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine.  This influence includes complex factors related to food preferences, sugar cravings, immune system components, saliva composition, and enamel quality.  While some of these traits can’t be completely negated, there’s plenty of room to alter the effects of the genetic forces.  The team at Woodinville Periodontics can help you find strategies that influence dental heredity in a positive manner.

Ultimately, You’re In Control!

Heredity influences oral health in more ways than we understand, but ongoing research continues to uncover new answers.  Fortunately, genetics doesn’t write your whole dental story and many advancements in dentistry can help you keep a healthy smile.  But customized strategies are critical and should be developed early with the team at Woodinville Periodontics to avoid irreversible damage.