Are Your Genes to Blame for Tooth Decay?

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In a recent study led by the J. Craig Venter Institute in La Jolla, CA, doctors and researchers analyzed the oral bacteria of twins to determine how nature vs. nurture comes into play. In other words, do genes or dental care and diet more directly result in tooth decay?

Nature Vs. Nurture

Researchers took swab samples of oral bacteria from 485 pairs of twins between the ages of 5 and 11 years- 205 identical and 280 non-identical, or fraternal. The study focused on twins as they are likely to have had a similiar upbringing and dental care.

They found that the inherited bacteria, which is linked to lower rates of tooth decay, decreased over time when comparing the children aged 5 with those aged 11, and the bacteria linked to environmental factors increased over time. And it is this second bacteria that is linked to higher rates of tooth decay.

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Although the make-up of our oral bacteria when we are young is influenced by our genes, this lessens as we age and different factors come into play such as how well we care for our teeth and what we eat and drink. Not surprisingly, children who consumed more sugar had less of the good bacteria and more of the bacteria tied to tooth decay as sugar feeds this bacteria which leads to the acid that promotes tooth decay.

What You Can Do

So take your child’s dental health into your own hands. Promote brushing at least twice daily and keep sugar in their diet to a minimum. Remember, good dental health begins even before those first teeth make an appearance so wipe gums with gauze or a soft cloth after eating or drinking. Knowing you can make the difference in your child’s dental health is a great motivator to promote good dental habits from the start.

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