Six-year-old Hoxie Flowers gets a lesson on proper dental hygiene. His mother worries because he is prone to tooth decay, even though she flosses and brushes regularly.
You’ve heard it countless times: it runs in the family. But usually, people are talking about the color of your hair or problems with your heart.
But a dental decay gene may also be something your parents have passed along to you. And no matter how diligent you are with dental hygiene, the dentist’s drill seems always to pay you a visit.
Hoxie follows his mother’s training; they sing a song together while he uses the tooth brush. It's a fun way for her autistic son to remember how to take care of his teeth.
“It was hard in the beginning to brush his teeth, very hard,” explained Jennifer Flowers, Hoxie’s mom.
Jennifer worries because cavities seem to run in her family.
Professor Linda Niessen is increasingly convinced there is, in fact, a cavity gene.
“Dental research is showing us that in fact, some people are much more prone to tooth decay or dental cavities than others,” says Dr. Niessen.
And national statistics show gene or no gene, we’re getting more cavities than ever before.
“We saw it increasing in adults age 21 to 64, and we saw it in adults over age 65,” said Dr. Niessen.
Whether or not you have the gene, Dr. Niessen says early and regular checkups can be lifesaving.
“An infection in the mouth, can, in fact, lead to an infection in the bloodstream, which can lead to death,” said Dr. Niessen.
If you're a parent who gets cavities, your child may be at high risk, so Niessen recommends using sealants.
“Sealants are a plastic coating the dentist places on the chewing surface of the teeth where cavities are most prone,” explained Dr. Niessen.
For adults, Niessen advises the following: limit your caffeine, quit smoking, and keep your mouth hydrated.
Jennifer says it made a huge difference to take Hoxie to a dentist who specializes in children on the autism spectrum. She’s hoping it will make a difference in the longevity of his dental health.
Experts believe diagnostic tests that measure salivary flow to determine tooth decay risk will one day be available.