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Do cavities run in the family?

Just like other health issues, cavities can be inherited or shared with family members. Most of the time, tooth decay (which causes cavities) can be prevented with good daily oral hygiene habits. But for a small percentage of the time, they are caused by genetic factors.

How tooth decay happens

The most common causes of tooth decay are:

  • Bacteria build-up

  • Too much sugar

  • Poor dental hygiene

How genetics play a role

Genetics can show up when:

  • A parent or caregiver kisses a baby or pre-chews their food. When they share saliva, the adult may pass on the cavity causing bacteria, Streptococcus Mutans (or S. Mutans).

  • Teeth are developing. Family genes for teeth show up in how teeth develop, the order teeth erupt from the gums, and whether they are straight or crooked.

  • You pass on sugar cravings. If you prefer sugary treats over salty ones, you are part of the 20% of the population who can pass on a sweet tooth to their children.

  • Your kids inherit a rare health condition. There are health issues that pass on through genes, like amelogenesis imperfecta, which makes enamel weak and teeth more prone to cavities, or hypoplastic teeth, when enamel doesn’t form correctly.

The consequences

Whether inherited or not, tooth decay can cause serious consequences. According to findings from the British Dental Association in 2023, tooth decay is the most common reason for hospital admissions in children aged between six and ten years. When tooth decay is left untreated in childhood, it can create health issues for them as an adult. Studies have shown there is a clear connection between child cavities and developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.

What you can do to help

Even if your kids inherit crooked teeth or you gifted them tooth decaying bacteria, you can still help them prevent future health issues by establishing healthy oral habits now. The best part? It’s not hard. It’s just keeping up the habit!

  • Brush and floss twice each day

  • Limit sugar and avoid sugary drinks

  • Make sure you have fluoride in your toothpaste and drinking water

  • Treat teeth earlier – start visiting us at the dentist as soon as your child is 1 year old

  • Take care of your own smile by modeling healthy daily oral habits

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