Are Dental Cavities (Caries) Genetic?

December 15, 2022

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Dental cavities are formed by caries, which is a condition that causes the demineralization of enamel and dentin, leading to “cavities” in the teeth. Most know that sugar causes cavities, this occurs via the metabolism of bacteria in the mouth which feed on sugar, then produce acids as metabolic byproducts that corrode enamel. The bacteria can then grow inside the tooth, causing cavities or infections.

Dry mouth, an acidic mouth, diabetes, and an immune system that is not so robust can all contribute to the process of cavity formation. Periodontal disease, the condition that causes loss of gum and bone holding on to tooth roots, is caused by inflammation of the body reacting to a different group of bacteria from the set that causes cavities. Both dental cavities and periodontal disease are strongly influenced by your own genetics.

Human variation in genetics includes teeth as well as the oral environment, immune system, and even preference for sweets! These can all affect the risk of cavities in different ways.

Several genes (there’s more) involved in tooth formation that have common variations that affect risk for cavities are:

  • AMELX – gene for enamel formation
  • ENAM – gene involved in enamel thickness
  • CA6 – a protein found in salivary glands and saliva that affects the buffering capacity, or ability to neutralize acid in the mouth.
  • DEFB1 – an immune system gene that helps in fighting cavities-causing bacteria
  • GLUT2 – some people with this variation have a “sweet tooth” NOT HELPFUL!

We wont go into the genetics of periodontal disease in this article, which is its own expansive topic of discussion.

So how much does genetics affect risk of cavities? 50%! About as much as brushing!

Longitudinal Analysis of Heritability for Dental Caries Traits - PMC (

Dental caries and microbial acid production in twins - PubMed (

Heritability estimates for dental caries and sucrose sweetness preference - PubMed (

Heritability of oral microbial species in caries-active and caries-free twins - PubMed (

For more information about how you can assess your own genetic risk of cavities, please check out our NutraHacker Dentistry Report Description.

Or to get going without any further delay, upload raw DNA data and find out what your genetic dental caries profile is today.