It is sometimes hard to believe all of the features and characteristics that we inherit from our parents. Whether you're tall, short, blue-eyed or blonde, you can usually attribute some of these features to your mother and father. Of course, the downside of genetics is that diseases and disorders are also linked to genes.
Well, you can add gum tissue to that list as well! Genetics actually determines whether you have what we call “thin” or “thick” gum tissue. How does this work? Well, the type of gum tissue you have relies heavily on the shape of your tooth, which indeed is genetically-coded. If you have a triangular tooth shape, you'll likely have thin gums. If you have a squarer tooth shape, you'll usually have thick gums.
So, what can you expect from each tissue type?
If you have a thin gum tissue type, you are more likely to have gum recession. Watch out for the following signs of gum recession:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold, even without the presence of dental decay
- If you have crowns on your teeth, you may see a dark gray line at the gum line from the metal casting beneath the crown
- Small dark triangular spaces between teeth
On the other hand, if you have a thicker tissue type, your gums are more vulnerable to dental disease through a condition called “pocketing.” This happens when bacterial plaque causes your tissue to become inflamed, lose its attachment to the teeth and develop a pocket. Pocketing can result in bone loss, and, in worst-case scenarios, tooth loss.
It's important to note that while we use these terms to categorize different tissue types for treatment decisions, your tissue may also fall somewhere in between the two varieties.
So, how can you prevent gum disease? Daily oral hygiene is the best way to ensure proper care of your gums, no matter what type you have. Be sure to brush twice daily (use a soft toothbrush) and floss regularly at night. Floss gently until you hear a squeak, but watch out for your gum line. And of course, continue to visit us two times a year, so that we can assess whether you are in danger of developing gum disease.
If you would like more information about genetics and gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Genetics and Gum Tissue Types.”