Genetics Can Play a Role in Children’s Dental Health
As a parent you want to give your child the world: every opportunity, every experience, and every benefit. We research schools, open college funds, vaccinate, Ferberize, free-range, and helicopter our children–all in the hope that we are raising happy and healthy people.
Unfortunately, we can’t change the genes we give our kids. Until we can, we should all be aware of the common genetic conditions our children may inherit. In many cases, preventive measures and targeted screening can mitigate the effects of genetic predispositions, especially in the field of children’s dental health.
Uncommon Disorders vs. Common Predispositions
In terms of oral health, there are a few distinct disorders that are inheritable, such as amelogenesis imperfecta, which causes teeth to be small, pitted, or discolored. Cleft lip and cleft palate are also inherited conditions. But for most parents, a far greater concern are the common everyday dental conditions that may be hastened by a genetic predisposition, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Tooth Decay, Gum Disease, and Oral Cancer
If you have had a significant number of cavities, despite consistent dental hygiene habits—pay attention. as you may have a genetic predisposition to tooth decay. Science has uncovered that variations of the beta-defensin 1 (DEFB1) gene are linked to greater risk of cavities in adult teeth. If you seem to have genetically weak enamel, your child may have the same weakness.
Additionally, it’s estimated that 30% of the population is more prone to develop gum disease as a result of their genes. There are obviously more significant risk factors associated with gum disease, such as alcohol and tobacco use, but if you or a family member has gum disease, there’s a chance your child may also develop the condition. Oral cancer is another illness that has a known link to genetics.
Luckily, preventive dental treatments have come a long way in the past 30 years. We can now spot cavities before they even happen and recognize and treat gum disease in its earliest stages. If we know a parent has been susceptible to dental problems, we may also ramp up the use of sealants and fluoride treatments for your child.
You can give your child the tools he needs to fight a predisposition to tooth decay or gum disease by (1) keeping current with six-month dental appointments, (2) not letting cavities go untreated, (3) being extra vigilant in your enforcement of daily oral care routines, and (4) educating your child about the possibility of inherited susceptibility, when old enough to understand what it means.
The shape and size of our jaw is largely determined by genetics. While not a guarantee, if both you and your spouse needed braces as a child, it’s highly likely your child will also need them. If this is the case, be ready to consider orthodontics when your child’s adult teeth have come in. Teeth that are crowded and/or crooked are more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease, as brushing and flossing are not as effective at removing plaque from misaligned teeth.
A misaligned bite can also cause trouble for your child down the road, in the form of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. This problem can lead to teeth clenching and grinding (bruxism), jaw pain, and chronic head/neck pain if not corrected with orthodontic treatments, such as braces.
Children’s Dental Health: Other Problems We Give Our Kids
While not necessarily inherited, there are a number of other dental disadvantages we may pass on to our children.
– Nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy can lead to weak enamel in children.
– Specific strains of oral bacteria passed mother-to-infant can make children more vulnerable to cavities. Avoid the spread of bacteria by not sharing cups, spoons, or lollipops with your children.
– Attitudes and behaviors are “passed down” to our children, as well. Children learn best by our example. If you want your child to have healthy teeth and gums for life, model the habits you want to pass on!
If you need a dentist for your child or teen, call 616-365-4-KID today to make an appointment with Dr. Kimmy. At our Manhasset, New York dental office, we will take good care of your kids’ teeth, from baby teeth to teens.Leave a reply →