Can Gum Disease Be Genetic?

Person inspecting their swollen and red gums. Your genes influence virtually everything about your whole body, from your eye and hair color to the size of your pinky toes. But did you know that your genes can also leave you vulnerable to certain medical conditions? These conditions can vary from the serious to the mundane—but one that you should be mindful of is gum disease! Poor oral habits aren’t the only cause of this health concern; recent studies show that genetics are a factor as well. Keep reading to learn more from your dentist in Corte Madera about the link between your genes and gum disease and what you can do to keep your smile healthy and beautiful.

How Can My Genes Cause Gum Disease?

Studies show that children of parents with periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease, are more likely to have problems with their gums, even if they practice good oral hygiene! Your body’s immune system is complex, and among the things that are designed to protect you is a specific gene called beta defensin 1 (DEFB1). This gene is responsible for protecting you from the likes of cavities and gum disease; but you can unfortunately inherit DEFB1 deficiency from your parents!

Additionally, you can inherit weaker tooth enamel from your folks; since your enamel compromises tooth structure, weakened enamel can ultimately lead to cavities and tooth loss which put you at risk for gum health issues. However, it’s also important to note that even though genetic factors don’t directly guarantee you’ll encounter gum disease, it does mean that you will need to be extra cautious and diligent when it comes to oral care.

Common Symptoms to Watch Out For

Gum disease isn’t always apparent, but there are a few early signs you can keep an eye out for including:

  • Chronic bad breath.
  • Tender and sensitive gums.
  • Excessive bleeding when brushing and flossing.
  • Gums that appear dark red or purple (healthy gums are light pink).
  • Receding gums (an easy way to tell is if you have teeth that appear longer than normal).

Is There Anything I Can Do to Protect Myself?

Even though your genes can influence your long-term oral health, it doesn’t mean that you should neglect trying to protect your mouth! Consider the following to ensure optimal oral health and protect yourself from gum disease:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time using a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Don’t skip flossing; it’s just as important as brushing!
  • Rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash.
  • Avoid unhealthy oral habits such as smoking, overbrushing your teeth, or using your teeth as tools.
  • Eat a well-balanced and healthy diet with plenty of vitamins, and drink plenty of water.
  • Visit your dentist biannually for checkups and cleanings.

Your oral health matters, and while your genetics can play a role in your mouth’s vitality, there is still a lot you can do to monitor and maintain it. That said, if you’re concerned about how genetics might be  influencing the health of your gums, don’t hesitate to speak with your dentist.

About the Author

Dr. Julie Young is honored to serve patients in the Corte Madera area. Dr. Young received her dental doctorate from the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry and is a member of several professional organizations including the American Dental Association and the prestigious Academy of General Dentistry. Her practice is proud to offer several available services including periodontal therapy. If you have any questions or concerns about gum disease or would like to schedule a visit, feel free to contact Dr. Young’s practice online or by phone: (415) 924-5300.