Contemporary research indicates that genetics play an important role in our dental health. Indeed, certain genetic conditions can increase our risk of cavities, gum disease, and other dental health problems significantly.
While poor oral health is often linked to environmental factors (i.e. high-sugar diets, smoking, and poor oral hygiene), our genes may play a bigger role than we realize. In this blog, we discuss some of the genetic conditions that can impact our dental health.
Cleft Lip and Palate
Cleft lip and palate is a condition that impacts the development and formation of the face and mouth during early fetal development. The condition can leave a gap or opening in the lip or palate (roof of the mouth), which can make it much more difficult to eat, speak, and breathe.
Patients with cleft lip and palate may require surgery to close the gap. They may also benefit from orthodontic treatment to correct dental malocclusions and other dental issues caused by this condition. These patients should also have regular dental checkups and cleanings to prevent dental caries and gum disease.
Salivary dysfunction is a condition that affects the amount and quality of saliva produced by the salivary glands. Saliva plays an important role in protecting the teeth and gums from decay and gum disease by:
- Neutralizing acids produced by oral bacteria
- Washing away food particles and debris
- Providing minerals that help to remineralize the teeth
Salivary dysfunction can lead to dry mouth, which increases the risk of cavities, gum disease, and other oral health problems. Patients with salivary dysfunction should drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and tobacco, and use saliva substitutes or stimulants to alleviate dry mouth symptoms.
Amelogenesis imperfecta (AI) is a genetic disorder that affects the development of tooth enamel, which is the protective, outer layer of the tooth. This condition affects teeth in numerous ways, such as:
- Soft teeth that wear down rapidly
- Increased rates of dental decay
- Heightened tooth sensitivity
- Malformed or underdeveloped teeth
- Textured teeth
- Eruption and spacing issues that eventually lead to misaligned teeth
Patients with AI should have regular dental checkups and cleanings to prevent dental decay and erosion. They can also explore effective cosmetic treatments to improve the appearance and function of teeth, such as:
- Dental bonding
- Dental veneers
- Dental crowns
Dentinogenesis imperfecta (DI) affects the development of dentin, the layer of the tooth beneath the enamel. It can cause discolored and weak teeth that are prone to fractures and wear.
Patients with DI should avoid acidic and sugary foods and drinks that can cause or worsen dental erosion and decay. To protect teeth from further damage, patients with DI should use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to gently brush twice a day. Dental sealants and fluoride treatments can also help protect teeth affected by DI.
Hypophosphatasia is a genetic disorder that affects the metabolism of phosphate and calcium. As a result, this disorder often causes teeth to be weak, brittle, and prone to dental caries and gum disease.
Patients with hypophosphatasia should have regular dental checkups and cleanings to prevent cavities and periodontitis. They may also need dental restorations or extractions to manage dental issues.
Ectodermal dysplasia is a condition that affects the expression of the genes responsible for creating healthy teeth, hair, and nails. Patients with ectodermal dysplasia often have malformed or missing teeth, which affects their chewing and speaking function.
People with ectodermal dysplasia may need dental restorations or dentures to replace missing or malformed teeth. These devices can help restore chewing and speaking functionality while enhancing one’s overall appearance.
Hypodontia is a condition that results in the absence of one or more teeth. It can affect the development and eruption of permanent teeth, leading to gaps and spaces between teeth.
Patients with hypodontia may wish to consider orthodontic treatment, such as braces or aligners, to close gaps and improve the alignment of their teeth. Patients may also explore dental implants or bridges to replace missing teeth and restore the function and appearance of their smiles.
Similar to amelogenesis imperfecta, enamel hypoplasia affects the development of tooth enamel, causing it to be thin or absent. This genetic condition can lead to discolored and sensitive teeth that are remarkably prone to erosion and decay.
Patients with enamel hypoplasia should:
- Avoid acidic and sugary foods and drinks that can worsen dental erosion and decay
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to brush gently twice a day
- Pursue dental sealants and fluoride treatments to help prevent tooth decay
Address Genetic Conditions with a Trusted Dentist
While some genetic conditions are passed down from parent to child, many genetic conditions are just a simple mutation in gene expression during fetal development.
Regardless of the origin, genetic conditions that affect your oral health must be addressed with a trusted dentist. Contact our dental professionals today to get proactive care that protects your smile for years to come!