Do bad teeth run in the family?

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Have you ever spotted a family where everyone has beautiful red hair? Do you know a family where several people are colorblind? Most of us can admit that understanding genetic traits can be difficult. There are traits that are easy to spot, such as height, eye color and dimples. However, other traits remain mostly unknown to passersby, such as blood type and colorblindness.

The traits passed down from generation to generation help us to understand our children and their health better, but dental decay is not one of these traits. While comments like “He has his father’s eyes” or “She must get her curly hair from her mom” are accurate and make moms and dads beam with pride, the comment “My child has my bad teeth” is simply untrue.

It is true your child may be more prone to decay based on the strength of his enamel (which IS genetic). It would still be possible for him to remain cavity free. Practicing good oral hygiene habits, brushing twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste and flossing once a day are the best tools to keep decay away. Cavities are preventable when practicing these habits.

It is possible; however, for a parent to transfer bacteria that can cause decay to a child’s mouth. Eating off the same spoon, “cleaning” a pacifier with your own mouth and giving it to your child, and kissing your child are just a few ways this transfer occurs. These acts may seem harmless enough but can result in your child having dental decay.

Some aspects of your child’s smile are genetic however. Other than enamel strength, the way your teeth bite together, crowding, and jaw size are genetic. If you had permanent teeth that did not develop or both parents had braces, then these things may also happen for your child. Although just because you had cavities as a child does not mean your child will as well.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), it is important to take into consideration environmental and lifestyle factors when determining the cause of decay. Do you have a diet high in sugary or acidic food/drink? Have you had cavities in the past? These factors can lead to decay in the future.

Check out this short video from Mouth Healthy and the American Dental Association:

To help your child remain cavity free, be sure to make it about hygiene and not genetics! Avoid passing down bad habits and teach your child how to brush and floss properly. Keep sugary foods out of the house; and make sure to schedule appointments at Lincoln Pediatric Dentistry every 6 months.

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