Sometimes patients tell us their bad teeth are genetic—their whole family has bad teeth, so they are pre-destined to a life of dental problems. Typically, this isn’t entirely true. We do see patients who have family members with similar oral health problems. In these cases, there is a pattern that emerges, many times passed down through family members. However, bad teeth are not a commonly inherited problem. In most cases, “bad teeth” are usually a consequence of lifestyle and choices.

Examples of Lifestyle and Choices that Can Lead to Tooth Problems Include:

Nutrition. Poor nutrition affects teeth, and family members struggling with adequate and proper food, often have the same issues of weak teeth that later results in the need for bridges, dentures or veneers.

Bacteria. The bacteria in our mouths is not something we’re born with. This bacteria is passed from one person to another through kissing and sharing food and utensils. That means families very often share bacteria back and forth, without even knowing it. That is also why married couples often have the same types of dental issues!

Lifestyle. Beyond food, people who grow up in the same house often develop similar habits. If your parents did not stress the importance of daily brushing or routine dental visits, you are less likely to develop these habits as adults. Your siblings (and parents) have the same results. If your household always had sodas and candy available, then you and your siblings would have had a higher chance of serious tooth decay.

Smoking and Alcohol. People who grow up in a house where smoking and/or drinking is a norm are likely going to carry on these bad habits into adulthood. Both alcohol and nicotine can be very detrimental to dental health.

There’s Always Exceptions. There are a few exceptions—A predisposition to periodontal disease can cause many health problems, including tooth decay. Crooked teeth can make cleaning teeth hard, and tooth decay can often happen where teeth touch or overlap. Additionally, people who carry certain variations of the gene beta-defensin 1 (DEFB1) do have higher rates of cavities in permanent teeth. Luckily, in all these cases, proper care and routine dental visits will ensure healthy teeth for a lifetime.

At your next visit, ask your dentist to discuss treatment plans for your individual situation and what options are available to give you a brighter, healthier smile.