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Yes, Your Mom Had Bad Teeth

Many believe that if a parent has “bad teeth” then a child is destined for that condition as well.  Good News!  That is actually not the case.  Cavities are caused by bacteria.  While multiple bacteria play a role in cavities, the primary culprit is a nasty strain called streptococcus mutans that thrives by producing acid from sugar in your diet.

I have seen the occasional patient with truly soft enamel, but rarely is this genetic.  If your mom or dad had “bad teeth” then they probably passed that along not as a genetic trait, but because they passed you their bacteria.  This means that when you share a spoon or a straw with another person you are also sharing the germs in their mouth.  Sadly this is true for kissing too.  Babies are born with a “clean slate” and only get exposed to streptococcus mutants when it is passed from person to person.

A cavity is a result of bacteria chewing a hole in the tooth.  Once you have been exposed to these cavity causing bacterial strains they will always be present in your mouth as long as you have teeth. However, these bacteria need sugar to form cavities (decay).   Luckily our teeth are smooth and saliva keeps our teeth slippery and this helps keep prevent bacteria from attaching to our teeth.  The bacteria has to release a sticky glue-like substance that enables it to adhere to your teeth.  We call this mix of bacteria and sticky glue plaque.  The more plaque you have the more bacteria are present and actively chewing through your teeth.  Therefore, those that have a great deal of plaque are more prone to cavities.  It is this “perfect storm” that results in cavities rather than genetics.

Thankfully you can say that you got your brown eyes from your parents, but not your cavity prone teeth.  Preventing cavities is well within your reach!