You can’t pick your family, but you can choose your chompers.
That’s the comforting conclusion from a study of genetics and dental health undertaken by The University of Melbourne.
The results show genetic make-up doesn’t determine the likelihood of tooth decay, implying individuals have some power to shape their own dental destiny.
“We found that identical twins, with identical genomes, have varying degrees of decay,” says lead researcher Dr Mihiri Silva of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
“This means that environmental factors, like a lack of fluoride in water, seem to be the prime cause of cavities, not genetic makeup.”
On the other hand, the research found children whose mothers were overweight did tend to have more cavities.
Dr Silva says it’s unclear whether this has something to do with the effects of obesity during pregnancy, potentially higher rates of sugar consumption within the home or some other factor.
In any case, she argues the main lesson is individuals shouldn’t blame their genes for poor dental health.
“If people think the health of their teeth is down to their genetic make-up, they may not be prepared to make important lifestyle changes,” she said.
“Our findings also reinforce how important it is for paediatricians and other health professionals to educate children to start preventive measures early in life, prior to the onset of damage to dental tissues.”
According to the research, one in three Australian children has some form of tooth decay by the time they start school.
Research to improve our dental health is only possible if we support our universities. To keep Australia clever, please sign the petition below.