The idea of “nature verses nurture” is discussed in a variety of topics, so we wanted to examine this idea in the terms of oral health. We wonder, are you genetically predisposed to oral health problems, or are they a product of your life style?
You may have heard of the term “nature versus nurture” used in psychological studies and discussions of how one’s personality develops. The root of the term comes from a simple question: how much of our personality is innate, and how much is developed during our upbringing? In terms of health and wellness, an adaptation of nature versus nurture begs the question, how much of our health is dependent on genetics, and how much is attributed to lifestyle choices and habits. When it comes to health, the answer is not black and white, but rather a shade of gray. The answer is the same when it comes to oral health. Which oral health conditions can be attributed to genetics, and which are related to poor oral hygiene?
Periodontal disease is characterized by an infection of the tissues in the gums that hold your teeth in place. When it comes to genetics, it has been reported that up to 30% of the population may be genetically predisposed to periodontal disease. While genetics play a role in gum disease, it’s important to note that there’s not a specific gene that has as large of an impact in developing periodontal disease than environmental influences. Environmental influences can include poor oral hygiene habits, diabetes, and smoking.
While your brushing habits directly correlate with the amount of tooth decay you have, genetics have an impact on your risk of cavities as well. Studies have shown that certain variations of the gene “beta-defensin 1” are linked to a higher risk of tooth decay in adult teeth. According to an international study, researchers discovered that 47 areas of the genome are linked to tooth decay. Despite these findings, the environmental factors relating to tooth decay are undeniable. Research also supports that early childhood oral health may be strongly influenced by the habits and health of the child’s mother. Moms with poor health or obesity are associated with her child having a higher prevalence of cavities. This could be due to her own poor dental hygiene habits, or poor health choices in general, like consumption of a high sugar diet.
Certain cancers, such as breast cancer, are more widely thought of as hereditary. Oral cancer on the other hand is mostly dependent on lifestyle choices. Some inherited genetic mutations carry a risk of oral cancer, but habits such as tobacco and alcohol use are ultimately the top risk factors for developing this form of cancer.
Out of all of the oral health problems on this list, misaligned teeth are the most directly related to genetics. This is due to the fact that genetics play a major role in developing and determining the size of your jaw. Jaw size can then have effects on how your teeth come in and can result in gaps, crowding, and what kind of bite you have (underbite, overbite, or crossbite). If someone in your family needs braces, it’s highly likely that you will too.
As with most parts of life, your oral health is the combination of many different factors, and most conditions are a fusion of genetics and environmental factors. The good news is that if you’re suffering from dental issues relating to either nature or nature, Ashley Dental Associates is able to assist you with your dental health needs. Set up your appointment today by calling (843) 767-2600 or by requesting an appointment.