Welcome back! I’m glad you returned this week for part 2 of this topic. As you may recall, last week we talked about the fact that some people have great teeth, have few cavities, eat tons more sweets and don’t practice as good an oral hygiene regimen as they should. And, at the same time, others do all the right things and still spend way more time in the dental chair than any of us would like. We asked where is the justice in that? We talked about how, while the science of genetic dentistry is still in its infancy, it is believed that approximately sixty percent of the risk for tooth decay appears to be genetically related factors. Mary L. Marazita, Director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics at the University of Pittsburg School of Dental Medicine reports that scientists have identified five areas of concern in which they believe genetics play a major role. Last week we talked about our preferences for sweets and the strength of our tooth enamel. Now, let’s continue with the remaining three areas of concern for bad teeth.
- Taste Ability. Taste ability is defined as the measure of the variety of things you can taste. It is not simply whether you are genetically predisposed to enjoy certain flavors but also whether you are able to perceive certain flavors. This is, apparently, a complicated process that seems to include your tongue and is linked to your sense of smell. The example given in the article that I read was that of cilantro and the ability of some people to taste it and find it to be the perfect topping for fresh fish tacos while others who tasted it said it tasted like soap. Studies are showing that the greater the variety in your genetic taste ability profile, the less risk you have to develop tooth decay. It is not yet clear if this is because a greater variety of tastes leads to less sweets or if there are other reasons for this theory. Scientists will continue to study this for better information.
- Saliva Strength. Science says that calcium, potassium and some other elements are vital for strong and healthy teeth that are able to resist tooth decay. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as eating the correct foods but it is also important that these foods be metabolized appropriately to be useful. Your saliva is a big player in this particular process and science has identified gene variants that will make some people champs at this while others are water boys.
- Microbiome. Did you know that there is a field of scientific study called microbial ecology and it looks at the various communities of bacteria that exist in the human body? And, yes, you read that correctly … various communities … plural. In fact, in just your mouth alone, there are separate communities of bacteria on your tongue, on the surface of your teeth and below the gum line. All together, these communities make up your “microbiome”. Don’t be alarmed, this is all quite normal. This kicker to this one is that your immune system responds to these communities which can affect many things, one of which is your particular risk for tooth decay.
We have talked about the sixty percent of risk for tooth decay being genetic, but how about the other forty percent of the risk? Next week, we will finish this topic and I will share the other forty percent with you. Until then, keep up with those regular dental checkups with your dental professional and maintain that good oral hygiene regimen they are recommending. Remember that your Periodontist on Long Island can identify and treat gum disease with a laser rather than a scalpel. Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or visit him on the web and let him tell you how.