Did you really inherit your bad teeth from your parents?

We know that as children we inherit oral bacteria from our parents and carers, but what is the relationship between bad teeth and genetics?  When training to be a dentist we would always ask the parents about their teeth while checking their child’s teeth, the assumption being that if the parents had bad teeth, the child was likely to also have bad teeth.

This new study  published in Cell Host and Microbe has changed this concept.

The study is the first large study to analyse tooth plaque swabs from 485 sets of Australian twins aged between 5 and 11 with 205 being genetically identical twins.

The study set out to examine the oral microbiome (the bacteria that live in our mouths) to determine if it was genes or environment that influenced the presence and growth of the bacteria.  What is the relationship between bad teeth and genetics?

•What they found was the bacteria that are inherited were not the cavity causing bad bacteria.  It was those bacteria linked to the environment – such as a high sugar environments that increased in abundance.  The inherited bacteria decreased in abundance over time.

•In other words, children that had a high sugar diet had managed to grow far more abundant communities of “bad cavity causing bacteria” and decrease the communities of “good or inherited bacteria”.

It has never been shown before that the bacteria that protect us from tooth decay decrease in numbers with high sugar diets.  Because the types of bacteria and their growth are significantly influenced by the environment, we can no longer blame our genetics for tooth decay.

But most importantly if we can control the environment we can significantly change the prevalence of oral disease and treatment.

Good Oral Hygiene

Starting early with good oral hygiene habits has never been so important.  Even before teeth have erupted,  what we feed out children is having an impact on their future dental health.

Avoid sugar, sugary drinks and lollies as much as is possible.  Practice good oral hygiene habits with twice daily brushing and flossing and help to save those “good bacteria”.

For more idea’s on looking after your child’s teeth, visit our Children’s Dentistry Page.


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