At Feldmanis Family Dentistry, Dr. Rita Feldmanis always strives to inform patients about the important role that diet plays in helping to maintain and improve their oral health. But what if you never drank a soda or ever ate anything overly acidic, would you still suffer from tooth decay? How much does genetics play in determining our long-term oral health, and does it matter whether you’re a girl or a boy?
For decades, researchers have found it difficult to determine why some patients suffer from tooth decay while others who share similar diets and eating habits do not. Many different studies have found that severe tooth decay occurs more frequently in men than women. Studies on dental erosion have been conducted on groups as diverse as wine lovers to patients suffering from eating disorders. Both of these groups include individuals who frequently expose their teeth to acid, and therefore have a higher risk of suffering from tooth decay. Surprisingly, research has found that not all of the people in these types of groups share the same risk for tooth decay. A new study from researchers at the University of Oslo’s Faculty of Dentistry are now attempting to explain this discrepancy.
More Than Just Acid Erosion
What explains why some individuals suffer from tooth decay while others do not? Why do some people, when exposed to oral acids, have such a different reaction than others who consume a similar diet and receive the same level of exposure? These are the types of questions the research team hopes to answer.
“As dentists and researchers, we are often facing cases of dental erosion that we have difficulties explaining, and we meet patients who don’t have dental erosion although their lifestyle indicates that they should. It is also a general assumption that boys tend to have more erosion and more severe erosive lesion than girls. We believe that this disparity is due to something more than just the acidic effect,” explains researchers in a written statement.
Finding an Answer
To begin finding some answers, researchers conducted a study on 66 patients with vomiting and eating disorders. The study included a clinical examination and a questionnaire where patients were asked to detail their illness. Questions about the frequency of vomiting and duration of the eating disorder were asked of all the participants, along with questions regarding their general health, eating and drinking habits, and oral hygiene habits.
The study found that 70 percent of the participants suffered from tooth decay and that those who had suffered with their illnesses the longest had more evidence of decay and more lesions when compared to those who had dealt with their disease for a shorter period of time. The findings of this study helped to confirm researchers’ assumptions that tooth decay is a common problem in patients dealing with an eating disorder. However, researchers were surprised to find that a full third of participants showed no signs of enamel erosion, despite also frequently vomiting due to their eating disorder.
Researchers then conducted laboratory testing in an attempt to isolate why certain study participants were immune to tooth decay. The results showed that the susceptibility to tooth decay seemed to be influenced by both an individual’s oral biome and the quality of dental enamel.
Researchers believe that the key to explaining this discrepancy may simply come down to genetics. Some people may possess a genetic makeup that makes their teeth naturally more resilient to tooth decay. While this certainly seems unfair to all of us you had to endure a filling despite brushing and flossing daily, it does give researchers hope that by identifying the genetic markers for stronger tooth enamel they may be able to find ways of duplicating that effect for others.
Until that time, it’s important that patients keep brushing and flossing daily, and continue to schedule regular exams and cleanings at Feldmanis Family Dentistry.