If you and many people in your family have crooked teeth or lots of cavities, you may have wondered, are bad teeth genetic? There are many factors that can affect your teeth, and some of them are genetic. But, how much is genetics and how much environmental? Let’s take a closer look.
What Are “Bad Teeth?”
First, what does it mean to have “bad teeth?” As long as your teeth are doing their job and helping you chew and speak without pain, your teeth are just fine! But, if you struggle with frequent dental caries (AKA cavities) or you aren’t happy with the appearance of your teeth, you might wonder how your teeth formed, which aspects of your teeth are genetic, and which aspects you have more control over.
Genetic Factors That Can Cause “Bad” Teeth
Genetics determine many things about how we grow, think, act, and even feel. Genetics also determine many aspects of our teeth and mouth. It can be difficult to determine which factors are influenced by genes and which factors are influenced by our environment. Studies working with twins, who may have different environments but the same genes, can reveal genetic links compared to environmental factors. An extensive, international genetic study with over 500,000 participants also identified genetic factors that can affect teeth, which includes some of the following factors.
Genetics affect many aspects about how our bodies grow and develop in childhood. This also includes our teeth. The way our teeth come in, how many teeth we have, whether or not we have wisdom teeth, the development of the mouth and jaw, and other factors are all influenced heavily by genetics. If your teeth have come in crooked or overcrowded, genetics may be to blame.
Yet, genetics are not the only factors that influence how teeth come in and develop. We’ll discuss this more later in the blog post, but tooth growth can also be affected by vitamins and minerals, tongue thrusting, and other factors.
Tooth enamel is essential to protecting your teeth. If your tooth enamel isn’t as strong as it should be, it can expose your teeth to cavities. Just like every other part of your body, your genetics influence how your tooth enamel develops. This is particularly important, since our bodies can’t actually regenerate tooth enamel. Fluoride treatments and fluoride toothpaste can help bolster tooth enamel, but won’t actually regenerate it.
Saliva is more than 99% water, but the other compounds in saliva are critical to protecting teeth. Saliva also contains compounds like calcium, phosphate, and potassium, which help to protect tooth enamel from the acids left by bacteria, as well as those leftover from foods or drinks.
The development and content of saliva is determined in large part by genetics. If you don’t produce enough saliva or if these other protective compounds aren’t present in the right amounts, it can make your teeth more vulnerable to cavities.
Some genetic disorders can also affect your teeth, gums, saliva, enamel, and other aspects of your mouth. Though many of these conditions are rare, it can cause tooth discoloration, weakened enamel, or even missing teeth or missing teeth roots.
Environmental Factors That Can Cause Bad Teeth
Genetics aren’t solely responsible for how your teeth grow in, develop and how strongly they are protected over the years. There are also environmental factors that can cause cavities and misalignments to teeth.
Early Childhood Behaviors
A child’s behaviors early in life can affect how their teeth come in. This can include thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, mouth breathing, and more. The pressure that these repetitive behaviors put on the mouth and teeth can cause teeth to develop and appear with misalignments.
Sugary foods like candy, soda, juice, and other foods can weaken tooth enamel and encourage bacteria to grow. Bacteria produce acids that can further damage teeth, and create cavities. Eating these types of foods and drinks too often can make your teeth and mouth more vulnerable to bacteria.
Dental hygiene is one of the most important environmental factors that can prevent cavities and gum disease. Brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once a day, and visiting your dentist every six months can help you keep your teeth healthy, even if genetics are not always on your side.
Addressing these environmental aspects that affect your teeth and mouth give you some control over your oral health. If you are concerned about tooth decay or the appearance of your teeth, it may be worth a conversation with your dentist about whether genetics or habits and environment could be at play in your case and what changes could be made toward your desired results. Make an appointment with a dentist today.