Is gum disease hereditary?

Is Gum Disease Hereditary? The Role of Genetics in Oral Health

If you have excellent oral hygiene – brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once – but have still managed to develop gum disease (or periodontal disease), your genes might be the culprit.

Do your siblings, parents, or even grandparents also suffer from periodontal problems? This may not be a coincidence. In fact, the American Dental Association has listed genetics as a risk factor for developing gum disease.

If you suffer from periodontal disease and suspect that genetics may be at play, please contact the experienced team at Boroondara Family Dentistry to discuss a personalised treatment plan.

First, What is Gum Disease?

Bacteria stick to the surface of our teeth each day in a film known as plaque. Consuming sugary, carb-infused foods and beverages causes the plaque to become acidic and it starts to break down the protective enamel layer on our teeth. If left unchecked, the bacteria can spread down inside our teeth, gums, and other oral tissue.

The earliest stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis. When left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis. This is when the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth. Debris can collect in the resulting pockets and become infected, eventually starting to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold our teeth in place.

What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?

A lot of people are unaware that they have gum disease, as they don’t really begin to experience symptoms until the infection has progressed. Common symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Red, swollen gums
  • Tender gums
  • Bleeding when brushing or flossing
  • A buildup of pus between gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Pockets of infection along the gum line
  • Chronic bad breath

What Role Does Genetics Play?

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine have published studies in which they’ve found a link between tooth decay, advanced gum disease, and genetics.

Dr. Alexandre Vieira found that the rate of cavities can be influenced by a person’s genetic variations in a specific gene (known as beta defensin 1, or DEFB1). If your family is more deficient in DEFB1, this is likely to make you more susceptible to tooth decay, cavities, and tooth loss.

Keep in mind that genetics are not the only cause of gum disease – letting your oral hygiene fall to the wayside is a big culprit.

Am I at High Risk of Developing Gum Disease?

As we’ve already touched on, some people are more susceptible to developing gum disease and other periodontal problems than others. Factors that may make you more at risk include:

  • Weaker enamel protein structure
  • Weakened immune defence mechanisms (against bacteria)
  • A family history of DEFB1 deficiency
  • A family history of diabetes
  • Being a smoker or tobacco user

How Do I Prevent Hereditary Gum Disease?

While it may not be possible to completely prevent gum disease, particularly if it’s been established that genetics may be at play, there are some things you can do to lower your chances of developing it.

Firstly, practice good oral hygiene. Proper brushing and flossing help to remove plaque from your teeth and gums, which keeps them clean and bacteria-free. Some people like to use a fluoride mouthwash at the first sign of infection; just be sure to use it at a different time than brushing your teeth, as it will rinse away the fluoride from your toothpaste.

Secondly, understand your risk. Ask your family whether they’ve ever been diagnosed with gum disease (specifically the more aggressive form, periodontitis). Don’t forget to also consider lifestyle risks, such as smoking, and commit to a healthy diet.

Thirdly, book regular visits with your dentist or periodontist. Regular check-ups and professional cleanings are a great first defence against gum disease. If you have a family history, be sure to mention it so that your dentist can monitor even more closely for signs of infection.

Boroondara Family Dentistry: Helping to Prevent Hereditary Gum Disease

Remember that genetics may increase your likelihood of developing gum disease, but they don’t necessarily mean that it’s an inevitability. Do you have a family history of periodontal problems? Do you already have signs of gum disease? Make an appointment with one of the experienced dentists at Boroondara Family Dentistry before the issue develops any further and causes more trouble.


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