Friends accuse me of thinking that everything is genetic. Well, there is some truth to that accusation! To be honest, though, there are a lot of things that have genetic connections that really surprise me. I had always assumed that my cavities were due to bad dental hygiene and bad dietary choices. That is what the hygienist always said. It turns out, genetics plays a big role in whether or not someone gets cavities. As always, though, genetics combines with lifestyle and habits when it comes to the final outcome.
Dental CariesI like the term dental caries better than 'cavity' - sounds fancier and less like a big hole in the tooth. No matter how you refer to it, a cavity consists of a damaged area of the tooth enamel that turns into a hole full of decay. Everyone knows that sugar causes cavities. The party line from dentists is that sugar feeds the bacteria on your teeth which then produce acid that eats away at the enamel. So all you need is some sugar, bacteria, and failure to brush for two minutes, twice a day. But wait... There are a lot of people who eat sugar, don't brush well, and don't have a mouth full of cavities. What is going on? It is estimated by researchers that the 'heritability' or genetic component of dental caries is about 50%.[ref] There are two ways that researchers can dig into how genes impact a disease or trait.
- They can start with an idea of which gene should be involved and then check to see if genetic variants in the gene change the risk of the disease/trait.
- Researchers can take the genetic data from a large population and combine it with the data on who has a particular disease/trait to see which genetic variants are related to the disease risk.
- genes that affect the oral microbiome
- genes that affect the formation of the tooth enamel.
Genetic Variants Linked to Cavities
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