Your child’s oral health depends on a variety of different factors, including how often he or she brushes and flosses at home, the number of times he or she visits the dentist, and even genetics. Like many other aspects of your health, oral health is affected to a degree by your genes. While a majority of oral health issues are caused by poor habits, there are some oral health problems that can be inherited. As a parent, you have the ability to help your child maintain a healthy smile for a lifetime. By knowing what factors play a role in the health of your child’s mouth, you can take the proper steps to ensure that your child will develop healthy teeth and gums.
One of the most common issues that people know to be passed down from generation to generation are crooked teeth. If you have crooked teeth or had to have braces at some point, there is a good chance that your child will also be born with crooked teeth. Misaligned teeth can also result from having too small a jaw, another feature that is a product of your genetic makeup. A small jaw doesn’t always allow enough room for adult teeth to come in, so they become overcrowded. Fortunately, there are several different orthodontic procedures that can help correct these issues. Children are encouraged to have their teeth checked at a young age (usually by the time the first baby tooth erupts), so these issues can be detected and treated early on. Interceptive orthodontics can be used to treat patients as early as age 5. This can sometimes completely eliminate the need for treatment in the future.
Recent research has also found a genetic link to periodontitis. Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, is a leading cause of early tooth loss. It often occurs in members of the same family, and some forms can develop during childhood. Up to 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to developing periodontitis. Studies have found that if you as a parent have periodontitis, your child is 12 times more likely to have the same bacteria that leads to gum disease. In addition, those who were born with an immune deficiency are up to 20 times more likely to develop periodontitis.
Another common problem amongst children is cavities. According to Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease amongst children. Over 50% of children ages 5-9 have at least one cavity, and 78% of teenagers around age 17 also have at least one cavity. Similar to the development of gum disease, your child might be prone to cavities because of certain genetic variations.
If any of these oral health issues run in your family, talk to your dentist to find out if your child might be at a higher risk of developing any of these problems. Knowing that these issues might exist in their genetic make-up can make it easier to prevent problems from persisting down the road. There are plenty of preventative measures and treatments that can be done to combat most all types of oral health problems. Schedule regular check-ups, and ask your dentist what you can do at home to help your child maintain healthy teeth and gums.