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Can Cavities Be Inherited?

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We often hear patients talk about how they or their children have “soft teeth”. We especially hear comments related to how cavities have been inherited from their parents or have been passed down to their children.

But is there really an inherited condition that causes some people’s teeth to be more susceptible to cavities than others?

Rarely “yes”…but usually, “no”.

Most people who suffer from frequent dental caries (cavities) actually have perfectly normal teeth. Their enamel is just as developed and strong as the average person. Poor dental habits are usually the cause of most cavities and with very few exceptions nearly all cavities are 100% preventable. The actual number of people who would have what could actually be called “soft teeth” is quite low.

A condition called Amelogenesis Imperfecta can result in thin, improperly formed enamel. This enamel is often pitted, uneven and brown. Inner layers of teeth can become exposed to damaging acids from food and saliva which leaves these true “soft teeth” more open to cavities.

Babies and young children often develop cavities as a result of bacteria transferred through the sharing of eating utensils or parents cleaning off pacifiers in their own mouths. It’s important to avoid transferring bacteria from one mouth to another and to begin dental care early. A soft washcloth can be used on a baby’s toothless gums, for example, and the American Dental Association has long recommended a small “smear” of fluoridated toothpaste for children under two years of age.

Even though the condition is extremely rare, we can’t rule out “soft teeth” without an exam. But most cavities can be avoided by regular flossing and brushing for two minutes at least twice every day


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