Gum Disease Runs In Families – The Genetic Link and How To Prevent It

gum disease genetic or hereditary link?

Did you develop periodontitis at an early age? Are you struggling to keep in under control? Do your parents have gum disease? If so your genetic makeup may be making you more susceptible to gum disease. 

Whilst your genetic makeup can make you more susceptible to gum disease there are steps you can take to prevent gum disease from being triggered. You can alter the course of its progression with some simple daily performed self-care treatments and lifestyle choices. Failure to do so can result in tooth loss and an inflammatory response that predisposes you to other conditions such as heart disease. 

This post aims to explain the hereditary effect of gum disease and its prevention. 

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Is Gum Disease Hereditary?

Some people are more at risk of developing gum disease than others. Their inherited genes are responsible. 

What are Genes? – How Do They Make You More Susceptible to Gum Disease?

You inherit genes from your parents. They play a huge role in determining what you look like, the color of your eyes and your athletic ability. Sometimes, genes have tiny changes in them, called mutations. These mutations can lead to inherited conditions and diseases.

When these mutations occur in the genes that control the immune response to bacteria invasion in the gums are present in your family genes you may inherit an increased risk of severe and aggressive gum disease. 

Chronic and Aggressive Periodontal Disease Runs in Families

The European Federation of Periodontology, states genetics is a risk factor for developing periodontal disease. It’s estimated that up to 50 per cent of those with periodontal disease have genes predisposing them to gum disease (1). 

Some families have a history of aggressive periodontal disease triggered at a young age. It involves the rapid deterioration of the bone around the teeth. Others have a history of persistent inflammation of the gum tissue.

Genes Linked with Periodontitis 

Some people may have genes predisposing them to higher levels of oral bacteria that lead to aggressive or chronic periodontal disease.

Genes can affect your body’s response to the bacterial challenge in the gums and bones. It’s thought that in some people there might be an overproduction of immune cells that leads to inflammation in the gums and bone loss in the jaw. 

Scientists are studying the genes associated with gum disease. At least 38 genes have been linked with an increased risk of developing periodontitis. Some of these are

  • FAM5C gene –  has been linked to aggressive periodontal disease. The gene has also been implicated in cardiovascular disease; the common factor connecting both conditions may be general inflammation in the body. (2)
  • IL-1B gene – Interleukin-1 (IL-1), is a small protein called a cytokine that controls the activity of our cells involved in the inflammatory response. It’s thought that a small variation in the IL-1B gene may be a risk factor for aggressive periodontitis (3)

Gum Disease Is More Complicated Than Your Genes

Your genes may put you at a higher risk of acquiring chronic or aggressive gum disease but it’s not that simple.

Your susceptibility to gum disease is also affected by other factors such as the environment, lifestyle and diet.

Many lifestyle choices are known risk factors for gum disease. Risk factors include

  • Smoking
  • Diets that are low in vitamins, high in saturated fats and sugars
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Stress
  • Poor oral hygiene

These lifestyle choices or risk factors combined with your genetic risk translate into your true risk of developing gum disease.

Whilst one person with a gene associated with chronic or aggressive periodontal disease who also smokes, eats a poor diet and practices poor oral hygiene will develop gum disease. 

However, other people, with the same gene who live a healthy lifestyle – they don’t smoke, eat a Mediterranean-style diet and brush their teeth twice a day and clean their interdental spaces may never develop gum disease or if they do it will be less severe. 

Luckily we can control some environmental factors – we can eat a healthy diet, quit smoking and develop and maintain exceptional oral hygiene. If your family has a history of periodontal diseases it doesn’t have to be your destiny. 

Can Hereditary Gum Disease Be Cured?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for gum disease – there is no magic pill.

There is hope for future treatments – some scientists are hypothesizing that treatment strategies targeted at cytokines (small proteins) and immune cells may also work in the future. Others are working on treatments based on using micronutrients. 

These treatments are a long way from being produced by big pharma. 

However, there are simple steps you can take to reduce the chances of periodontal disease being triggered or the severity of their disease progression even if there is a genetic link in your family. 

As plaque bacteria trigger the immune response that leads to gum inflammation and destruction of the bone. If you meticulously disrupt the plaque bacteria twice a day and make positive lifestyle changes can prevent the inflammatory response as well as bone and tooth loss.  

If you have a family history of gum disease let your dental professionals know. They may treat your periodontitis differently – they may be able to give you more specific advice based on your unique situation. 

How Can You Prevent Hereditary Gum Disease?

Despite the hereditary link, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of gingivitis being triggered in you. 

Daily Performed Self-Care at Home

The most important thing you can do to prevent gum disease is to develop and maintain good oral hygiene at home. Brush the teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and carefully clean the interdental spaces. 

Electric toothbrushes are more effective than manual toothbrushes at disrupting plaque bacteria.  Consider buying one of the best electric toothbrushes. 

Use single tufted toothbrushes, the revolutionary gum pocket brush, interdental brushes or floss to clean between the teeth and under the gum line. 

Knowledge is power where beating gum disease is concerned. Gum Disease: Solved online education tool arms you with the information to understand why you have gum disease and how you can beat it in only 10 minutes per day at home, without the need for costly and ineffective dental visits.

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Visit Your Dentist for Regular Cleanings and Check-ups

Regular visits will ensure any evidence of gum disease will be treated quickly, preventing progression to periodontitis and irreversible bone loss. 

Learn About Your Family’s Oral Health History

Finding out if there is a genetic link may explain the progression of your gum disease. Ask your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties or siblings if they have gum disease.

Quit Smoking

Whilst you can’t do anything about the genes you inherited you can control the risk factors you expose your gums too.  

Smoking changes the way genes are expressed which can lead to heightened inflammation and an altered immune response. The body’s fight against plaque bacteria is reduced. Periodontitis is more severe (4).  

Quitting nicotine, tobacco and e-cigarettes is one of the best things you can do for your general and oral health. 

Eat a Healthy Diet

Poor diet and nutrition induce or increase low-grade body-wide inflammation. It’s thought that foods rich in saturated fats, carbohydrates, salts and sugars alter the way the immune system fights infections and how the genes controlling some immune cells work (5). 

Scientists have also speculated that the permeability of the gum tissue may be altered by a poor diet, leading to increased bacterial invasion and persistence of some strains of bacteria that trigger gum disease (4). 

Eating a low-calorie diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and pulses such as the Mediterranean or paleo diet can have a positive effect on the cells which helps keep the inflammatory response in check. Thus having a positive effect on periodontitis even if your genes predispose you to gum disease. 

Stress

Links between stress and how healthy the immune system is have been studied in the last few years. Reducing stress levels with regular exercise, meditation, yoga etc can help reduce the risk of periodontitis. (6)

Genetics can play a part in up to 50% of those with gum disease. Whilst your genes may predispose you to periodontal disease which is more severe – it doesn’t have to be your destiny. 

Reducing your exposure to known risk factors can help reduce the severity and disease progression by preventing inflammation. 

Gum disease and the destructive inflammatory response triggered by plaque bacteria. Developing oral hygiene which is first class is essential in the fight against periodontal disease.

Sources

  1. Introduction – European Federation of Periodontology
  2. FAM5C Contributes to Aggressive Periodontitis – PMC
  3. Interleukin-1 as a genetic marker for periodontitis: review of the literature
  4. The role of inflammation and genetics in periodontal disease – PMC
  5. Nutrition Facts in Multiple Sclerosis – PMC
  6. Embracing Complexity beyond Systems Medicine: A New Approach to Chronic Immune Disorders – PMC
Sharon Fyles image

Written by Sharon Fyles

Periodontitis Expert & Writer

Sharon Fyles, BSc (Hons, SW), MSc, Dip,  is a Manchester-based expert dental writer specialising in periodontal diseases and their treatment.

 

Medically Reviewed and Verified by Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons), MFDS (RCPS Glasgow)

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