Are Bad Teeth Genetic?


You brush your teeth twice a day without fail, but cavities keep popping up. Your spouse, on the other hand, occasionally falls asleep without brushing her teeth and has never had a single cavity.

If it doesn’t seem fair, you’re right – it’s not. Blame it on your genes.

Recent research has linked genetic variations to higher likelihoods of tooth decay and gum disease. As much as we hate to break it to you, your genes do play a role in the state of your teeth. In other words, yes, bad teeth may be genetic.

Don’t worry. How well you care for your teeth still counts for a lot, and we’ll talk about that, too. But first, take a look below at some of the ways your genes may influence your teeth.

Your tooth enamel

Your genes determine the softness (or hardness) of your tooth enamel. The softer the enamel, the easier it is for bacteria to eat through it, leading to the development tooth decay.

Your sweet tooth

Believe it or not, your food preferences may come from your parents.  A 2005 study found that gene TAS2R38 predicts a child’s preference for sweet foods. Unfortunately, that gene also leads to a higher likelihood of tooth decay.

Your taste ability

Did you know some people can taste more flavors than others? It’s true. Some people inherit more taste buds and some inherit less. This means that genes not only predict your preference for certain tastes, but also your ability to perceive certain flavors.  Studies have shown that people with the ability to taste a wider variety of foods tend to have lower rates of tooth decay. This may be because with all the options, they’re less likely to rely on sweets.

Your gums

According to current research, periodontal disease is influenced by heredity, which means your genetic makeup can make you more susceptible to it. At its worst, periodontal disease can lead to much more than lost teeth; it has also been linked to heart disease and stroke.

We promise your oral care routine counts for a lot, too.

Just because your parents gave you soft enamel or a sweet tooth does not mean you’ll lose all your teeth by way of tooth decay or gum disease.  Scientists believe genetic factors account for only 60% of the risk for tooth decay, which means that as long as you take good care of your teeth, you can still keep your teeth and gums healthy. It just may take a little more effort than your spouse requires to take care of hers.

If you have a higher risk for tooth decay, it may be a good idea to:

  • Brush after meals (rather than just twice a day)
  • Floss after meals (rather than just once a day)
  • Limit the amount of sweets you eat
  • Chew sugarless gum between meals (to help with saliva production and decrease the risk of tooth decay)
  • Refrain from drinking soda and sugary drinks
  • Avoid citrus juices and acidic foods
  • Visit your dentist every three months (rather than every six)
  • Talk to your dentist about whether you need additional fluoride

Come see us, and let’s talk about your oral health

At Soft Touch Dental in San Diego, we pride ourselves on having great relationships with our patients. It’s important to us that our patients feel comfortable asking questions and that they know we’ll listen carefully to their concerns.

If you’ve been taking great care of your teeth but you’re still having a hard time fighting off cavities, we’re happy to sit down with you and find a solution.

Your smile is our business. Let’s work together to ensure that it’s as healthy and beautiful as possible.