First and foremost, you are responsible for your own dental health. Proper dental hygiene and visiting the dentist regularly are primary factors for whether or not you suffer from dental problems such as cavities. However, there are some ‘family matters’ that influence your susceptibility to tooth decay.
While we can’t necessarily say that cavities are genetic, there are some components of your dental health that are inherited. For example, the amount of saliva you generate in your mouth is a genetic trait. Saliva is essential for washing away harmful bacteria, neutralizing acids and providing protective minerals to your teeth. These all aid in the prevention of cavities.
Another genetic trait is the thickness and strength of your tooth enamel, which is the protective outer layer of your tooth. For some people, their genes control the fact that their enamel is thin, soft, and even discolored.
You may also be able to blame your crooked teeth on your parents, as the size and position of your teeth can often be inherited. Crooked teeth are more difficult to clean and thus more vulnerable to decay.
Did you know that the germs that form cavities are contagious? A family member who has cavities can transmit the cavity-causing germs to you by sharing utensils and food – which is not uncommon for siblings and mothers/babies to do. Cleaning a pacifier in your mouth before giving it to your baby is another way that cavity-causing bacteria can be unfortunately shared.
Another family habit that can influence your likelihood of getting cavities is your family’s eating habits. If your household pantry frequently includes numerous high-sugared foods and drinks to consume, tooth decay may have a welcome invitation in your home.
Before you blame your parents or your family habits on your battle with cavities, it is important to know that good oral hygiene can always offset these family influences. Practice diligent brushing and flossing and see your dentist every six months. When it comes to your family, control what you can. You may not be able to change the genetic makeup of your teeth, but you can certainly choose better family eating habits and avoid sharing utensils in your home.