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Cavities? Maybe It's Genetic


Sue and John are a married couple. Sue does not eat sugar or drink soda, but she does brush her teeth three times a day and floss every night. John on the other hand, can’t kick his soda habit. Every morning on the way to work, he hits the gas station where he buys a HUGE soda. John has another soda or two before the day is over. Then, after dinner, John eats a sugary snack while watching television. John only brushes his teeth once or twice a day and he frequently forgets to floss.

Who do you think gets cavities? John, right? Nope! In this scenario, Sue, age 40, has struggled with cavities her entire life. Meanwhile, her sugar-addicted husband, John, age 43, has NEVER had a cavity before. Not even as a young child. Now Sue’s wondering, “Can cavities be genetic?” Sue’s on to something.

According to dental research, oral health depends on genetic factors, dental hygiene, and lifestyle. After all, don’t we all know at least one person who eats a ton of sugar and has poor oral hygiene but never seems to get a cavity? Then, there’s some of us who consume sugar in moderation, don’t drink soda, and brush and floss regularly, but seem to be getting fillings every year.

According to Mary L. Marazita, the director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh of Dental Medicine, about 60% of the risk of tooth decay is not from diet, but from genetic factors. Here are four areas where scientists have found that genetics affect tooth decay:

  • The stronger a person’s genetic preference for sweets, the more likely they are to experience tooth decay.
  • Tooth enamel varies from person-to-person. The softer the tooth enamel, the more the person is prone to tooth decay.
  • When people can perceive more flavors, the less likely they are to develop tooth decay.
  • When there is more calcium and potassium in the saliva, and they are properly metabolized, the lower the chances of tooth decay.

So, if 60% of your cavities are determined by genetics, what determines the other 40% of tooth decay? The answer is:

  • Diet
  • Brushing frequency
  • Soda consumption
  • Juice consumption
  • Smoking habits
  • Frequency of dental care

As with Type 2 Diabetes, the biggest factor that leads to tooth decay is the consumption of sugary drinks, including 100% fruit juices, sodas, and energy drinks. While all sugary foods can contribute to tooth decay, sugar-filled drinks are some of the worst culprits because they are very efficient at spreading sugar to every part of the mouth. In effect, these sugary drinks are feeding the bacteria that cause cavities or tooth decay.

Do you have cavities that need to be treated? Or, do you need an exam and cleaning to help prevent tooth decay? Either way, contact our office to schedule a free consultation with our Ventura County Dentist, Dr. Mark Weitzman D.D.S.

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