Blame Your Parents If This Happens To Your Teeth

Among all the things we routinely blame our parents for — our hair color, body type, and maybe even that fiery temper — there's another one we can now add to the list. Genetic factors also influence our dental health.

If you've known someone who seems to survive off of a steady stream of Snickers bars and Mountain Dew, but hardly has a cavity tarnishing his or her pearly whites, it might be that they are genetically predisposed to have thicker tooth enamel, resulting in teeth that are not only whiter-looking, but also more resistant to bacterial decay. He or she can thank their parents for that flawless smile.

Others of us, though, can look to genetics for a number of other less-desirable dental conditions, including an increased risk of gum disease, tooth decay, oral cancer and cleft lip. Even the crowded teeth that resulted in those braces you rocked for a couple of years as a kid were probably inherited, since genetics play a major role in jaw shape and size (via Delta Dental).

Don't be too quick to lay all the blame on your parents or grandparents, though. Researchers point out that, although some dental conditions rely pretty heavily on genetic factors (for gum disease, for example, up to 30 percent of the population may be genetically predisposed), diet and lifestyle factors still play a role in determining oral health.

Some dental conditions are influenced by genetics

One Australian study involving 173 sets of twins, found that "identical twins, with identical genomes, have varying degrees of decay. This means that environmental factors, like a lack of fluoride in water, seem to be the prime cause of cavities not genetic makeup" (via ScienceDaily). Other factors, including the mother's health and lifestyle habits during pregnancy, were strong indicators of the children's oral health.

Another study, also conducted on twins, found that the specific types of microbes found in your mouth during childhood do in fact come from your parents, but, according to Dr. Chris Dupont, one of the researchers involved with the study, "It turned out that the microbes you inherit from your parents don't generally cause cavities. Instead, it's more due to what you eat, your lifestyle and your diet" (via Newsweek).

The takeaway? Yes, your genetic makeup definitely has some influence on your dental health. But our diets and lifestyles, and how we take care of our teeth is, ultimately, the larger factor in determining oral health.