You’ve probably heard that big bones and chronic conditions can run in the family, but do you know that heredity has a hand in dental health, too? It’s true: diseases caused by genetic factors can impact the oral cavity and lead to long-term dental issues that require extensive treatment. Unfortunately, the correlation between inherited and autoimmune diseases and dental health goes both ways: in some cases, a hereditary dental condition can fuel an autoimmune disease which in turn leads to immune system dips and other health complications, thus creating a sort of a magic triangle.
Deterioration of dental and overall health can turn into a vicious cycle unless the underlying cause of the disease is identified and remedied on time. In case you’re unsure whether the culprit behind a dental condition may be lurking in your genes or immune system glitches, here are some broad guidelines on to help you decide if you need to visit your GP or dentist in order to take care of the disease for good.
Cavities Written in the Genes: Hereditary Dental Diseases
Genetic diseases impacting dental health are usually divided into primary and secondary, i.e. the conditions that affect babies and those that develop later in life. Primary genetic tooth diseases such as amelogenesis imperfecta, dentinogenesis imperfecta, and dentin dysplasia often cause damage to the tooth structure unless diagnosed and remedied on time, whereas some inherited conditions such as taurodontism, cleidocranial dysostosis, gingival fibromatosis, and hypodontia are irreversible. Secondary teeth degradation, on the other hand, is usually caused by conditions that impact production of saliva such as Sjogren syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux, gastritis, diabetes mellitus, and certain autoimmune diseases.
For both primary and secondary dental diseases, proper care can help prevent complications such as caries, curved teeth, infections, tooth loss, and enamel or root damage. Unfortunately, dental problems caused by genetic factors have an ugly flipside: unless the damage caused by a hereditary condition is repaired on time, it can be fuel to the flames of an autoimmune disease.
Deeper than Enamel: Nip Autoimmune Disease in the Root
Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system perceives healthy cells as foreign bodies and attacks them in order to prevent an infection. This often occurs in patients suffering from dental nerve damage or abscess. Over time, a tooth with impaired auto-cleansing function will become a hotbed for bacterial development that may lead to dental pulp necrosis. In teeth with deteriorating root or pulp, the immune system may decide to step in and eliminate the foreign body which has caused the contamination in the first place. According to Australian Dental Specialists, root infections may present with no symptoms. Root infections are the most common dental cause of autoimmune diseases, but further complications can be easily prevented by means of a root canal procedure.
Efficient and painless, the root canal (also known as endodontic treatment) removes bacteria at the root that has caused the inflammation while allowing the patient to preserve their natural, albeit devitalized, tooth. In progressed cases of dental root and jaw bone damage, however, the dentist may recommend apicoectomy or tooth extraction to prevent spreading or recurrence of the infection.
Daily Care Keeps the Dentist Away: Preventive Dental Care
In cases of dental conditions wherein genetic predisposition plays a role, such as canker sores, malocclusion, or periodontal disease, adequate oral hygiene and timely treatment can help prevent complications and damage to the tooth, gums, and the immune system as a whole. To stay on the safe and sore-less side of the smile, you should undergo dental check-ups at least twice a year, clean your teeth and gyms with a soft brush two or three times a day, use natural whiteners, and regularly run oral cavity self-checks to detect caries, discoloration, and similar telltale signs of tooth damage.
Also, individuals with overbite or dental asymmetry are usually advised to have dental braces fitted to prevent excess enamel wear or root damage. In severe cases of dental asymmetry or overbite caused by hereditary factors (e.g. in patients with supernumerary teeth), however, the dentist may recommend extraction of one or more teeth prior to fitting dental braces in order to relieve crowding and ensure best possible alignment of teeth.
What came first, the caries or the autoimmune disorder? The only way to find out is to consult your dentist and ask them to recommend efficient dental hygiene tools and treatments. After all, bad teeth may run in the family, but you shouldn’t let neglect fan the flames of a potentially serious health condition in the making. With proper care and regular visits to your dentist, you may just evade an autoimmune disease by the skin of your teeth – and thanks to advanced dental technologies, you can even alleviate or reverse some of the inherited conditions and keep the Fairy of Premature Tooth Loss away for a few years longer.
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