The data you get from your mom and dad that determines your eye color and height also plays a role in the health of your mouth! Genetics affects the onset and the progression periodontal disease. While gum disease does run in families, it’s not as quite as simple as other genetic traits like curly versus straight hair. So what is the role of genetics and gum disease?

Inheritability of gum disease, or how a certain trait like gum disease is passed down from your parents, is very similar to height. “I have a tall mom and a tall dad, so I’m going to be tall,” isn’t always true. But when your mom and dad are both tall, it is more likely that you will be tall too. So, if your mom and dad both have gum disease, it doesn’t mean you’re 100% going to have it, but the odds suggest you will.

Gum Disease and Genetics

Aggressive Gum Disease – Blame it on Mom and Dad

To keep it simple, there are two forms of periodontal disease. One is aggressive, one is chronic. The aggressive form tends to be noticed in the early teenage years. This form is extremely genetically related. If your parents have it, you have a 50% chance or greater that you will too.  Thanks to amazing new technologies and treatments, we can detect it early.  When we detect it early, we can generally save teeth that 10 or 20 years ago would have been deemed hopeless. Back then, children would have grown up without very important teeth. Typically it’s the first molars, a major chewing tooth, or the front tooth that are lost to aggressive gum disease.

Losing your front teeth can be detrimental in both function and appearance. Early detection is truly the key to saving teeth, especially with the aggressive form of periodontal disease that has such strong inheritability in families.

Chronic Gum Disease – Complicated Genetic Links

On the other hand, chronic periodontitis, which we know from recent studies that 50% of the population has, runs in families as well.  But the genetic links for chronic periodontitis are not as simple as the genetic links for aggressive periodontitis. Several genes play a role; together they contribute toward one pre-disposition for disease. This is why when we talk about chronic periodontitis, we also talk about so many other important factors like smoking, other inflammatory conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Genetics and gum disease are part your overall immune response.

Patients with chronic gum disease are genetically primed to have an immune system that responds differently to certain bacteria. How your body reacts – or doesn’t react – to certain bacteria makes a big difference as to if you get gum disease.

Bacteria Doesn’t Cause Gum Disease…But it kinda does

To explain that a bit further, with certain bacteria in our mouth it’s not actually the bacteria that is the problem. It’s our immune response to that bacteria. So when patients who are genetically primed, or have the genetic makeup that allows those bacteria to cause more damage; their body ignites a fire when it encounters that bacteria. The body’s response to the bacteria is inflammation. Inflammation starts a counter-attack from your body’s immune system.  The immune system focuses on getting rid of what is causing the inflammation.

In your mouth, that fire is right at the junction of where the root and tooth come together. If left untreated, the body’s immune system tries to get rid of your teeth – the body thinks once the teeth are gone, the rest of the mouth will be fine. This leads to gum loss, bone loss, weak teeth and eventually tooth loss. Not only is losing your teeth detrimental for chewing, but studies show that losing your teeth shortens your lifespan.

Gum Disease and Your Total Health

Treating You as a Whole Person, Not Just a Mouth

Just a few years ago, the American Heart Association came out with level one research showing that heart disease can caused by periodontal disease.  This was monumental in the periodontal community because until then we only showed correlation – that one disease could impact another but not cause.

Read More About the link between Heart Disease and Gum Disease

Now we know that the link between heart disease and gum disease is so strong, there is actually causation. Again, genetics and gum disease play a role in your total health! This is why it’s critically important that we treat you as a person – treat your whole body – and understand all of these things that make you…you! From health to disease, we can work together in partnership to develop a treatment plan that addresses your heritage, your genetic susceptibility, and overall body health while focusing in on your mouth.


About Dr. Whitney Weiner:

Whitney Weiner Gum disease and geneticsDr. Weiner treats each patient like family, and she would never dream of a one-size-fits-all approach. 

At Whole Dental Wellness, Dr. Weiner empowers her patients and instills in them the autonomy to make the right decision for them with an emphasis on education, open communication, and tailored care.  Dr. Weiner does not believe in being a jack-of-all-trades like many new dentists try to be; instead, she believes in being a true specialist and ensuring her patients are always treated by the best of the best.

In 2016, Dr. Weiner was chosen as one of the “Top 25 Women in Dentistry” by Dental Product Report and named the “Most Interesting Person in Dentistry” for February by In 2017, Incisal Edge named her in their top “40 under 40” young, rising dentists in the country. Always at the forefront of dental technology, she attends multiple regional and national professional meetings each year.

Dr. Weiner also loves to educate her fellow dentists and has lectured both nationally and internationally on the oral-systemic link (the connection between oral health and overall health), periodontology and implantology, and the importance of being a specialist. Dr. Weiner herself is a board-certified periodontist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology.  She became certified in the LANAP and LAPIP protocols in 2019.