More often than not, bad oral hygiene habits are the primary cause for cavities in children, whether it stems from environmental factors or just lack of effort. But some children, even with proper oral hygiene, fall victim to tooth decay in spite of their best efforts. These high-risk individuals don’t respond to traditional prevention, and biomarkers can’t predict their future risk for decay.  The impact from untreated oral disease is that it can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss. These situations, in turn, are risk factors for systemic diseases such as stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Immune Deficiencies Explain Rampant Cavities in Some Children

As tooth decay continues to affect more children than any other disease, researchers have found a connection between genetic immunity deficiencies and an increased risk of dental cavities affecting about one in every five children. The researchers believe their findings could lead to better methods for identifying high-risk patients and treating their caries.

“Most people consider caries to be a lifestyle condition caused by bad eating and oral hygiene routines that lead to acidic pH levels in the mouth, which in turn damage the enamel and promote the colonization of acid-producing bacteria such as S mutans,” said Nicklas Stromberg, professor and head of the Department of Cariology at Umea University and first author of the study.

“Our results now show that this correlation is accurate for approximately four out of five individuals who have a small to moderate risk of developing caries because their composition of salivary innate immunity proteins makes them relatively resistant to caries,” said Stromberg.

“However, we have shown that so-called high-risk individuals, which are about one in five individuals, carry a genetically different composition of the same salivary innate immunity proteins, making them highly susceptible to caries independent of  eating or oral hygiene habits of S mutans infection.” said Stromberg.

With this new information, children in the higher risk group could be diagnosed and monitored before symptoms of decay arise. By implementing prevention at a young age, cavities can be generally treated more easily. Dr. Reisman and Dr. Contrucci at C R Dental Group encourage patients of all ages to see their dentist at least twice a year. They also stress the importance of starting children early with regular dental visits, because the earlier good oral habits are formed the better chances of long-term success when it comes to overall oral health.