How Much Does the Luck of Genetics Play into the Health of Your Smile?

Generations of healthy smiles
Genetics play a key role in the health of our smile

DNA is the building blocks of our bodies. Our DNA is a mixture of our mother and father’s DNA. Has anyone ever told you that you have your father’s nose or your mother’s eyes? DNA affects everything from our skin and hair color to our height and shoe size, but can it also affect how brilliant of a smile we have?  

Having straight, white teeth and a bright smile can boost your confidence and self-esteem. If you’re doing everything you can to maintain good oral health but still feel like there are issues you can’t overcome, it could be due to your genetics.

What Aspects of Our Smile Does DNA Affect?

While the health of your smile can certainly be influenced by good dental habits and diet, there are a few concerns that can be attributed to your DNA:

  • Overcrowded or crooked teeth – According to Dr. Satish Pai, a trained dentist and faculty member at Columbia University, having crooked teeth tends to run in the family. The size of an individual’s jaw is passed down through genetics and can cause gaps in teeth or overcrowding.
  • Gum disease – While gum disease can be the result of poor dental hygiene, it’s also a common issue for diabetics. Having a history of diabetes in your family could put you at a higher risk of developing gum disease. Be mindful of your family’s health history so you can practice appropriate preventive care.
  • Oral cancer –Smoking, drinking and poor nutrition put you at risk for oral cancer. But for some people, genetics also play a role. If your family has a history of oral cancer, it’s important to visit your dentist regularly for routine screenings. Your dentist can detect signs of oral cancer in its earliest stages, before it becomes more serious.  
  • Tooth decay – If you’re someone who struggles with cavities even though you brush and floss twice a day and never skip your dentist visits, it could be due to genetics. Dr. Satish Pai suggests talking with your dentist about sealants or treatment to protect your teeth from cavities. Leaving cavities untreated could lead to more serious issues, such as tooth loss.

Learned Behaviors

The habits we develop when we’re young can affect us throughout our lives. If you didn’t grow up with a healthy dental routine or have good dental health role models, it could be causing some of your smile woes today. If you have kids, help them create positive habits that will stick with them as they grow older. Brushing and flossing apps can make morning and evening dental care more fun (and if you join in, they may even improve your habits too)!

If you had parents or guardians who either didn’t visit the dentist, or had anxiety and fear around dentist visits, that could also be affecting your feelings toward dentists now. Finding a dentist that you’re comfortable with and establishing your child at a friendly pediatric dental office could support future healthy habits.

Make Your Own Luck

It’s not all bad news! There are steps you can take to provide you and your family with a positive smile health outlook.

  • Take preventive measures to avoid common issues, such as tooth decay. If you have dental benefits, make sure you’re getting your regular preventive cleanings and exams (they’re often free!). Talk with your dentist about sealants or other preventive treatments to maintain your oral health.
  • Develop a daily routine that includes flossing and brushing in the morning and before bed. Your routine may also include a moisturizing mouthwash or antiseptic oral rinse.
  • Maintain a healthy diet that is low in sugar and promotes saliva production. Foods that are rich in fiber and stimulate the gums, such as apples, are great for your overall oral health. We’ve got some delicious mouth-healthy recipes and ideas to get you started.
  • Be prepared for when you need to have restorative or emergency dental care by having dental insurance. If you have dental coverage with a company like Delta Dental, you’ll benefit from negotiated rates on restorative and emergency services. This means you’ll pay less out of pocket than someone who doesn’t have dental insurance.

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