Genetic Factors in Oral Health Conditions

May 10, 2024

Genetics play a huge factor in who we are. You may have your mother’s hair color or your father’s eyes, but there are many other traits you can inherit, including some that make you more susceptible to developing certain medical conditions. A study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh in 2018 revealed one such link between a genetic predisposition to cardiovascular disease and the development of gum disease. Here is more about that study, and one other genetic factor that could make you more likely to develop oral health conditions:

The Relationship Between Cardiovascular Disease and Gum Disease

Your gums are an important line of defense that prevents bacteria from reaching your tooth roots, and ultimately, your bloodstream. Persistent bacterial infection of the gum tissue is known as periodontitis or gum disease, and it can lead to a range of oral health issues like tooth loss, abscesses, and more. One of the key factors in good gum health is a healthy flow of blood to the gums. Without proper blood flow, the gums can recede, and your body’s immune system will have a more difficult time-fighting infections in the gums. Cardiovascular disease is one condition that can restrict blood flow to all your body’s systems, including the gums.

Although the Pitt study did not establish a specific link between genetics and the development of gum disease, it did shed more light on the relationship between cardiovascular disease, which can be inherited, and periodontitis. Based on the study’s conclusions, it stands to reason that those who are genetically predisposed to developing cardiovascular disease will be significantly more likely to develop gum disease at some point, especially if they also use tobacco.

Diabetes and Oral Health Conditions

According to the American Diabetes Association, 1.2 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year, and an estimated 38.4 million are currently living with the disease. That’s nearly 12% of the population! Because diabetes impairs a person’s ability to regulate their blood sugar, it can lead to excess sugar in the body, including the saliva. This makes the mouth of a person with diabetes a much more favorable environment for oral bacteria to grow out of control, and the disease also impairs blood flow and immune function in the gums. One study showed that adults with diabetes were significantly more likely to develop gum disease than those without diabetes (58% vs 37.6%).

Because genetics are a well-established risk factor in developing diabetes, those with a family history of diabetes need to be especially careful about taking care of their teeth and gums to avoid issues in the future. Dentists recommend brushing twice per day, flossing once per day and as needed after meals, using an American Dental Association-approved mouthwash, and visiting the dentist twice per year. By maintaining a robust oral health routine, even those with genetic risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes can reduce their chances of developing gum disease.

Dental Offices in Chicago

Dentists and dental hygienists are on the front lines of the fight against gum disease, and they may be able to identify signs and symptoms of the disease during your normal checkups. If you have a family history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease, be sure to mention it to your dentist so they can be on the lookout for early signs of periodontitis. If you are looking for a dentist in downtown Chicago, Illinois, or anywhere else in Chicagoland, American Dental has 8 locations to serve you. Call us at (773) 284-1645 or visit our online appointment portal to find a list of our dental clinics in the Chicago area.

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