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Study reveals it’s less about genes more about environmental factors

A lot of our bodily processes are driven by genes. For example, some people genetically have fast metabolisms, so it takes a lot for them to gain weight. That doesn’t mean they’re incapable of gaining weight; it just means it’s harder for them than it is for others.

However, even with their inbuilt fat-burning machines, if they over-indulge on unhealthy foods, they can still become obese. In the same way, we like to blame our teeth problems on genes. For example, children born in areas with heavily fluoridated water will end up with brown teeth throughout their lives. Thus, it’s expected they’d blame their genes for other dental issues, but this isn’t necessarily true.

While there are some bacteria that are genetic, these gene-based bacteria don’t cause tooth decay. The type of bacteria that rot your teeth are the kind that feeds on sugar. They excrete acidic substances which then decay your teeth, and they are entirely dependent on your diet.

To prove this theory, an Australian study reviewed the oral health of 205 pairs of identical twins and 280 pairs of fraternal twins. Since each pair shares an above average number of genes, they made good test subjects. The twins were all aged between 5 and 11 years. And the studies concluded that genetic similarities did not influence tooth decay.

Many parents ignore their children’s dental health because they know ‘baby teeth’ will fall out, so they believe it will not affect their children’s permanent teeth. This isn’t true because ‘bad teeth’ can be developed before babies are even born.

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As an example, if an expectant mother takes certain types of medicine, it can affect her baby’s teeth in-utero. Once the baby is born, and the teeth finally erupt at nine months or so, they could be stained. Similarly, weaning your child with sugary foods can cause bacteria to accumulate in their mouth and gums, and this bacterial will affect their teeth when they finally come out.

There are many different types of bacteria in the mouth. Good bacteria help to break down food and run oral functions like protecting your tongue, teeth, and gums from infection. These bacteria can be inherited from your parents’ genetic material. Conversely, the type of bacteria that rots teeth is more a result of nurture than nature.

Small children are often given access to sweets and fizzy drinks. These may seem harmless apart from the legendary sugar high. But these foods stay in the mouth longer than other foods. Regular food is chewed and digested, while sweets and lollipops are sucked for five minutes or more. Carbonated drinks are swished around and swallowed.

That extended period inside the mouth gives the sugar and colour more time to coat the teeth, which encourages bad bacteria, teeth staining, plaque build-up, and decay. Encourage your kids to eat crunchy fruit and vegetables instead, like carrots or sugarcane. You should also teach them to brush and floss twice a day. Breed these habits from a young age so that good oral hygiene becomes a natural part of their lifestyle.

For advice on dental health or to book your appointment, speak to one of our dentists on 02 80040055.

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