Nature vs. Nurture in Oral Health

Why do some people who eat well and brush regularly end up with cavities while others who have never had a cavity drink cola, consume sweets, and don’t have the best dental hygiene? Are cavities a matter of nature or nurture?

Researchers have found the human body is a rich ecosystem of microbes. including bacteria, fungi, viruses. While some of these are shared with other people, each person has a unique set of microbes that can be critical in determining whether we are healthy or sick. These microorganisms change and develop over the years, with the most significant changes occurring during puberty.  Researchers believe that the unique communities of microbes in our mouths have an influence on cavity development and prevention.

While science does not yet know why some people carry certain types of microorganisms, two long-term studies at the University of Colorado in Builder suggest that nurture, or the environment, is more influential on the health of the mouth than are one’s gene set. Both studies analyzed the saliva samples collected from identical and fraternal twins to see how much saliva differed. Even though identical twins are similar genetically, the bacterial environment in their mouths varied just as much with the identical twins as with the fraternal twins. Also, when the twins lived in different cities the microbial samples became more varied than when they lived together or near each other.

These studies highlighted the importance of creating a healthy environment for your teeth, including maintaining oral hygiene and eating healthy food. Even though our genetic makeup may influence our health, we have significant influence on our dental destinies.

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