Why you may have a higher cavity risk

Your smile is as unique as you are. Yet, there’s one thing our mouths have in common — most of them face tooth decay. In fact, more than 90% of Americans have a cavity at some point in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While it’s impossible to predict exactly who will get cavities, certain genetic and lifestyle factors can increase your susceptibility.

Genetic cravings

Most people know sugar is a primary culprit in the formation of cavities. But did you know that genetics can also influence the strength of your sweet tooth? A recent study published in Cell Metabolism suggests that the desire to seek out sweet treats is actually woven into your DNA.

Here’s the good news — there are plenty of healthy alternatives to satisfy your sugar cravings without risking cavities.

Tooth shape

The shape of your teeth can increase your risk for cavities. If your teeth have large valleys, you might want to consider sealants, which can seal off biting surfaces from cavity-causing bacteria. Be sure to check if sealants are covered under your dental plan, and if there are age limitations, before seeking treatment.

Deep crevices and pits in the top surface of your teeth make you especially vulnerable to decay.

Enamel strength

Depending on your genetic makeup, your enamel may be naturally harder or softer than average. Tooth enamel protects the inner layers of teeth from decay. The softer your enamel, the more easily acids from plaque can attack and break down tooth enamel, which over time, can reach the inner layers of the tooth.

Saliva makeup

Saliva may be the unsung hero of cavity prevention. The chemical makeup of your saliva can help with remineralization — the process that keeps your teeth from developing cavities. And, producing less saliva can make you more cavity prone. The amount of saliva you have is influenced by a host of lifestyle factors such as snoring, diet and medication.

The effects of saliva don’t stop there. The genetic makeup of your saliva may even help reduce specific types of bacteria that cause cavities, according to an article in the International Journal of Contemporary Dental and Medical Reviews.

While these factors may influence your cavity risk, no matter who you are, healthy oral habits and regular dental visits are key to stopping cavities. And most dental plans cover regular preventive checkups at little to no cost, so there’s no reason not to go!