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Genetic Dental Traits

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
 notorious example of a hereditary dental trait is the Hapsburg Jaw, the result of generations of royal intermarriage. Poor Carlos II of Spain had such an extreme prognathism (protruding lower jaw) that he was unable to chew his food. Thankfully for most of us, hereditary dental traits, although common, are not severe and are readily treatable. These include malocclusions (bad bites gaps, soft tooth enamel, caries (decay and periodontal diseases.

Until recently, our understanding has relied on common sense – usually a parent or relative shares the same characteristic. Studies of extraordinary cases like the Hapsburg Dynasty have proven valuable to geneticists, along with twin studies and other research models. Today, quantitative genetic analysis and molecular genetics allow us to confirm what has been largely intuitive.

Great potential now exists to develop preventive strategies for patients. For example, up to thirty percent of the population may be genetically susceptible to periodontal (gum) disease. An exciting new finger-stick blood test can identify this genotype, and those who test positive can step-up their preventive measures like brushing and flossing, cleanings, and ongoing professional monitoring.

Environment, oral hygiene, lifestyle, and pre-existing health conditions will always play their part in your oral health. If you are concerned about a hereditary trait like chalky teeth, bad gums, jaw alignment or bite problems, crowding or empty spaces, please give us a call. We can help!

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