How Genetics Affect Your Smile

Published January 16, 2018 in Blog, Braces


January 16, 2018

Dr. Charles Gemmi

When it comes to your dental health, we tend to focus on our daily habits of brushing and flossing and cutting back on eating sugary and real acidic foods. All of this is important, but did you know that your genetics can also play a role in the health of your mouth and the condition of your smile. Depending on the genes passed on your parents or grandparents, you may be more at risk for certain oral health or dental conditions no matter how good you brush and floss.

Here are some ways genetics can affect your smile:

Periodontal Disease

While periodontal disease or advanced gum disease if often the result of bad hygiene practices and not getting proper dental cleanings and checkups, there is also a genetic component as well. If there is a history of diabetes in the family, this can increase your risk for developing gum disease as well.

Knowing your family history can give you the heads up to amp up your preventive care. Early diagnosis and treatment can also keep a bad situation from getting worse. You only get one set of adult teeth so it’s important to treat them right.

Tooth Decay

If you are always struggling with cavities no matter no matter how much you brush and floss your teeth and keep your mouth clean, then genetics may be at the root of it. The gene beta-defensin 1 (DEFB1) has been linked in studies to an increased risk for cavities.

If you and your children are at greater risk for cavities, then talk to your dentist about sealants and other types of treatments that can help better protect your teeth from cavities. Going to the dentist for regular cleaning and evaluations is also important. Cavities left unchecked can leader to more serious problems like tooth loss and gum disease so it should never be ignored.

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Brittle Teeth

Did you know that brittle or weak teeth can also be passed down in a family? While it is not as strong an influence as your diet (lack of calcium in your diet is a big culprit), it can play a role. If you notice that a lot of people in your family struggle with brittle teeth and they all follow healthy diets, then genetics may be the primary cause. Talk to your dentist about ways to strengthen your teeth to prevent chips and fractures and tooth loss.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer also has a genetic component. While smoking and drinking are lifestyle risk factors, studies have also found certain genetic markers that point to an increased risk for oral cancer.

Crooked Teeth

Crooked teeth tends to run in the family. Genetics often plays a big role in the size of your jaw which in turns affects the crowding of the teeth in your mouth. Some people may have big teeth and a small mouth which causes crowding while other people may have small teeth but a large jaw which can cause gaps between the teeth. These gaps can cause the teeth to shift causing you to have crooked or misaligned teeth. If you have had to deal with this or your parents did, it is likely that one of your children will also have similar issues.

This is important to be on the lookout for because crowding, gaps, overbites and under bites should be taken care of as soon as possible otherwise you may be develop serious dental issues like tooth loss and gum disease. If you have children, consider early orthodontic treatment to head off problems before their mouth stops growing.

Orthodontic treatment can seem every daunting but with the right orthodontist and the right type of treatment, you will see results a lot quicker than you might think.

Before choosing a treatment, make sure you understand what each treatment option entails. The traditional approach is metal braces which are a combination of metal and wires that are adhered to your teeth and slowly move your teeth into better alignment. Another option is Invisalign aligners which are clear and removable braces or lingual braces which are attached to the backs of your teeth.

Here is what you should know about both:

Metal braces

  • These are permanently adhered to your teeth and can only be taken off by the orthodontist at the end of treatment
  • The orthodontist tightens the wires during treatment to help shift the teeth
  • There are certain food and drink restrictions with this treatment
  • May have to wear them for 3 or more years depending on how your treatment goes
  • Most bite and alignment issues can be treated by metal braces


  • They are clear plastic aligners that can be easily removed
  • Can be removed to eat and to brush and floss your teeth
  • Treatment includes a new set of aligners every two weeks as your teeth shift into proper alignment
  • Invisalign can also handle both simple and complicated alignment issues

Lingual braces

  • They are braces that are attached to the back of the teeth instead of the front making them practically invisible to the people around you. They are made up of brackets and wires like traditional braces, but because of their positioning they are more discrete.
  • Unfortunately there are some bite conditions that cannot be treated with lingual braces. Patients with a deep overbite are not good candidates for lingual braces because the overbite might put too much pressure on the brackets leading to the brackets falling off. During an evaluation, your orthodontist will be able to determine if lingual braces will work for you.
  • Another concern is that not all orthodontists offer this type of treatment. It requires special training because the wiring work is more intricate than it is with traditional treatment. Another concern is that they can be more difficult to clean properly because it is on the back of your teeth which is harder to reach.
  • Because your tongue will be hitting up against the brackets, your tongue may develop sores until it get toughened up and you may have some speech problems at first.
  • You will also have food restrictions like you do with traditional metal braces. You will need to avoid foods that are hard and very crunchy and those that are very sticky.

The most important thing to remember is that even with a genetic predisposition for dental issues, you can still have a healthy mouth and a beautiful smile. For more information about the orthodontic treatments available to you, call Orthodontics Limited today.

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