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Genetic Dental Health, Should I Worry?

Posted in Dental Care, and General Dentistry

Environmental Elements Outweigh Genetics

“Worry most about the things you can control but limit the affects of the things you can’t.” You cannot choose your genetics but knowing that a specific oral issue is genetically induced, may help you deal with it. Currently there is no genetic test for the two most common dental diseases, tooth decay and gum disease, but some genetic components contribute to their progression. Comparatively though environmental elements and lifestyle, things such as smoking, diet, and bad oral hygiene (things we can control) far outweigh any genetic trait that contributes to those problems. However, there are some genetic disorders that cause significant dental defects.

Genetic Oral Abnormalities

Missing Teeth

One extremely rare abnormality is Anodontia. The absence of all primary or permanent teeth is called Anodontia. There are two forms of it, complete absence of teeth or the absence of some teeth. According to Wikipedia “Anodontia is usually part of a syndrome and seldom occurs as an isolated entity.”  Hypodontia, or partial anodontia, is when someone is missing one to five teeth, not including wisdom teeth. Hypodontia affects 1 in 18 people. The most common missing teeth are 2nd premolars and lateral incisors.

Missing Enamel

Amelogenesis Imperfecta is a genetic disorder that causes flawed or missing tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the hard surface of the teeth. It also holds the shape of our teeth. Without it there can be a misalignment of the upper and lower teeth or “malocclusion”. Individual teeth can interlock with their opposites in or out, causing an awkward bite pattern. Amelogenesis imperfecta is due to the malfunction of proteins during the formation of the teeth. It can also cause discoloration, giving people yellow, brown, or grey translucent teeth. Due to its nature, a person with this disease is prone to week teeth that can break, tooth decay, and gum disease. Fortunately, only 1 in 14,000 people are affected.

Cleft Lip and Palate

Cleft Lip and Palate affects approximately 1 in every 2,800 babies. This abnormality develops before birth, and results in the improper shape of the roof of the mouth, the lips, or both in varying degrees. According to Wikipedia, “Less than half the time the condition is associated with other disorders.” In many cases surgery can greatly improve this condition. Dental issues that are associated with clef lip and pallet are… less effective saliva, missing, misshaped or irregularly aligned teeth, and teeth prone to cavities due to weaker enamel in areas.

Systemic Conditions

Other genetic disorders not directly related to oral health can also have a significant impact on a person’s mouth. For example, Down Syndrome is associated with an enlarged tongue, delayed tooth eruption, and missing teeth (Anodontia or Hypodontia). Klinefelter Syndrome describes a person with an additional copy of the X chromosome. Among other issues, it’s suspected to cause cleft palate, hypodontia, and slowed development of tooth pulp. Then there is Apert Syndrome. Identified by malformations of the skull, face, hands and feet. It also can cause similar dental issues like an open bite, malocclusion, delayed tooth eruption and severe crowding of the teeth. Other disorders such as Mohr Syndrome and Tricho-Dento-Osseous Syndrome can have a similar negative impact on a person’s oral heath as a secondary complication to much bigger problems.


Knowledge of genetic oral conditions can help us appreciate what we have, putting into perspective simple dental issues. We can minimize the affects of a condition by identifying or diagnosing them early. Regular dental visits can help us identify and immediately treat dental problems whether genetic or “common to man”. Apart from your dental appointments, focus on the things you can control like a good home oral care routine that includes habitual brushing and flossing. Work together with your dentist Dr. Stephen Mathews to achieve your best dental health.

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.