We had a new family in for hygiene appointments today. The mother and her two kids are great people, but sadly the three of them presented with a boatload of cavities. After breaking the news to Mom, I cringed when she explained that it was hopeless because soft teeth just ran in the family. I couldn’t help but notice that the 9 year old boy left his Mountain Dew in the reception room, his 3 year old sister carried a juice-filled Sippy cup wherever she went, and Mom set her Mocha Frappuccino cup on the hygiene counter. I surmised that I wouldn’t need to order any fancy genetic testing to determine the causes of the soft tooth syndrome here.
Soft Teeth - Myth or Fact?
So is the idea of soft teeth just a myth? Well, not always. In the case of “normal” teeth, there have been studies that show some variation in the hardness of teeth between individuals. However, there has not been a significant link demonstrated that correlates that with a similar variation in tooth decay rate. So that small natural variation in tooth hardness doesn’t seem to make much difference in getting cavities or not.
Genetic Developmental Disorders
There are also genetic developmental disorders that can affect tooth hardness and formation, and these conditions have been shown to significantly increase tooth decay and wear rates. One such condition is Dentinogensis Imperfecta, which affects about 1 in 7,000 people. Another is Dentin Dysplasia, affecting 1 in 100,000 people. Amelogenesis Imperfecta is a group of enamel defects that involves anywhere from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 14,000. That wide range in study results may reflect the tendency of this condition to be over-diagnosed. In some of the cases, the actual cause may be Dental Fluorosis, which can in severe cases look similar. Fluorosis occurs from over-ingestion of systemic fluoride during childhood, often from young kids eating fluoridated toothpaste. I’ll talk more about this in a future blog article.
All of the above genetic conditions are fairly rare, and most soft teeth cases involve normally formed teeth that have simply been exposed to too much sugar, too much plaque, and too much acid. The only thing soft is the decay that has formed.
With good home care, healthy dietary habits, and good preventive care, your teeth should be able to remain hard and resistant to tooth decay. So toss out the Pepsi and Red Bull, and brush the ones you want to keep!