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Are Cavities Genetic?

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Younger man touching outside of cheek due to tooth pain caused by genetics.

When you visit the dentist for a dental exam and cleaning, your dentist and dental hygienist work together to keep your teeth healthy. Part of this is making sure your teeth are free from plaque and debris. 

While a normal dental hygiene routine and regular cleanings are typically enough to keep your teeth healthy, there could be other factors that affect your oral health. If it seems like you have a new cavity every time you visit the dentist, your genetics could be to blame. But exactly how do genetics play a part? Keep reading to learn more about the impact your genes have on your dental health and how you can protect your teeth against decay. 

What Is a Cavity?

Cavities are one of the most common health problems you can have, and they can affect anyone. A cavity is a permanent opening or hole in your tooth caused by tooth decay, which can be a result of a number of different factors. 

If you have a cavity it is most likely a result of bacteria in your mouth, consuming sugary foods or drinks, or not cleaning your teeth well enough. Unfortunately, there are also factors that can increase your risk of getting cavities, including:

How Do I Know If I Have a Cavity? 

Depending on how long you’ve had a cavity, you may or may not experience any symptoms. If you have a cavity you may notice signs and symptoms such as:

  • Tooth pain, especially when you bite down
  • Sensitivity to cold or hot 
  • Visible damage in your teeth
  • Staining on the surface of your tooth

If you experience any of the above symptoms, it’s important to get them checked by your dentist, no matter when your last dental exam was. If cavities aren’t treated they can lead to more serious issues. To keep your teeth healthy, and to catch cavities before they cause symptoms, it’s important to get regular dental visits and maintain a proper oral hygiene routine. 

What Role do Genetics Play in My Oral Health?

Your genetics determine several things about your oral health. 

Your Enamel Structure

Your genetics are the primary determinant of how soft or hard the enamel on your teeth is. 

Enamel is the thin clear layer on the outside of your teeth that protects the main part of your tooth, called the dentin. Your enamel is responsible for protecting your teeth from bacteria that causes damage, decay, and infection. The softer your enamel is, the more susceptible your teeth are to cavities. 

The Alignment of Your Teeth

Your genetics also determine the alignment of your teeth. Cavities can be caused by plaque and debris getting caught in between your teeth, so if your tooth alignment makes it difficult for you to clean your teeth, it can affect how easily you get a cavity. 

Your Saliva

The makeup of your saliva can also affect your oral health. Genetics can determine how much mineral saliva you produce, which is what helps your teeth stay strong and healthy. Mineral saliva plays an important role in fighting off acid erosion, which can weaken the enamel on your teeth.

What Can I Do to Keep My Teeth Healthy?

Although genetics can impact how easily you can develop a cavity, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed. The choices you make on a daily basis can keep your teeth healthy, no matter what genes you have. 

To keep your teeth healthy, follow these tips:

  • Avoid consuming sugary foods and drinks
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day, preferably when you wake up & before you go to sleep
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day
  • Use mouthwash at least once a day
  • Avoid smoking, chewing tobacco, and alcohol
  • See your dentist for regular exams & cleanings 

How Often Should I See My Dentist?

The average person should get a dental exam and cleaning every 6 months, but if your dentist notices that your genetics are affecting your oral health, they may recommend more frequent appointments. 

At Shawnessy Dental, we always take the time to assess your individual needs to ensure you’re getting exams and cleanings at the right time.

Women having teeth examined by dentist with open mouth

The Takeaway

Genetics can definitely affect your oral health, but it doesn’t define it. Regardless of your family history, there are things you can do to maintain a healthy smile. 

Ensuring you lead a healthy lifestyle, take care of your teeth at home with a proper dental routine, and see your dentist regularly, you can still enjoy great dental health. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call us at Shawnessy Dental. We’re always here to help you experience better dental health. 

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