Cavities are one of the most problematic chronic oral diseases suffered by children and, for decades, the assumption has been that those who develop severe cavities largely have bad luck by inheriting genes that make their teeth vulnerable to the condition. Now a new study is revealing that this notion is nonsense.
The researchers behind the new work examined the role of genetics, environment, and disease on the composition of the bacteria and fungi that live in the mouth in a whopping 485 pairs of twins. They found that while there are several species of bacteria that are heritable (or prone to grow in mouths due to heritable conditions), these species play little or no part in the formation of cavities.
These findings prove that chronic cavities have to be almost entirely the result of bad eating behaviours and not down to inherited "bad" oral microbiology. On the larger scale, we are seeing loads of cardiovascular, immunological and respiratory diseases (including several cancers) that have strong connections to the composition of the bacterial bugs living in the gut. Some recent papers show that oral microbiota are important here too and, if that is so, then diet looks very important for preventing or controlling these diseases too while genetics look largely unimportant. You can read more in The Economist article that I wrote on this here.