All our lives we’ve been told that periodontal disease is related to how well we brush and floss. “Only floss the teeth you want to keep,” is a common dental truism, referring to the fact that periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults, and that flossing is supposed to protect against periodontal disease.

Now, though, some research suggests that periodontal risk might be related to genetics. Does this mean that some people are susceptible to periodontal disease and some people are not, and that flossing doesn’t matter?

How Much Periodontal Risk Is Genetic?

There are many studies that have investigated the link between genetics and periodontal disease, starting in the 1990s. Researchers have identified several genes that may be responsible for periodontal disease risk. One of the strongest studies affirming this link says that having a particular genotype may make you 19 times more likely to develop severe periodontal disease. This 1997 study said that 86% of all cases of severe periodontal disease were associated with either smoking or this particular genotype.

However, other studies have not confirmed the strong association of this genotype with severe periodontal disease. In fact, one of the largest, most recent studies of genetic evidence points to a much less clear connection between genetic variation and periodontal risk. The review of genetic information from more than 4500 European Americans sought to associate risk factors with variations in certain regions of the genome. The comparison identified six potential risk regions, with risk levels that ranged from 1.5 to 2 for specific genetic regions. This study said that perhaps 18% of all severe gum disease cases could be explained by genetic variations, and about 52% if you included the intersection of smoking and genetic triggers.

Don’t Throw Away Your Floss Yet

Based on this most recent review, it seems that genetic factors play a significant, but far-from-overwhelming role in periodontal disease risk. Instead, environmental effects, including oral hygiene and regular dental visits, still play the primary role in determining overall risk.

If you want to learn more about protecting yourself from periodontal disease, please contact Ravon Knopf in Beverly Hills, where board-certified periodontist Dr. Nicolas Ravon can help you treat gum illnesses and preserve your teeth.