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My grandparents were smokers. They each smoked for approximately 60 years. My grandfather lived to the ripe old age of 87, and my grandmother to 96. Why, if smoking is so bad for our health did they live that long and not succumb to lung cancer? I have patients ... married couples where one member of the union takes meticulous care of their teeth and gums (usually the wife) ... flossing, brushing, rinsing, every day and still gets cavities and gum problems, whereas the other person (usually the husband) neglects good oral home care and they rarely have a dental issue ... no cavities, no gum problems, no pain. Although this is not the norm, why do things like this happen?  We hear stories about healthy young people who die of a heart attack after jogging a few miles on a beautiful sunny day ... why if they are fit enough to run miles would they have a heart attack? These are questions I have wondered about for most of my career.

There is something that has been called "HOST RESISTANCE and HOST RESPONSE". What does this refer to exactly? We (human beings) become and reflect the sum total of various influences that act upon us.

THE ROLE OF GENETICS: Genetics plays a very key role in the development of our physical attributes. That is why we look the way we do and have our unique hair colour, eye colour and shape, tooth size and shape, etc. This is the result of the combination of genetic material that we inherit from our parents and our ancestors. This is why certain physical traits can skip a generation or two. Genetics can also play a role in how we respond physically to, and express certain diseases, disease processes in our lives. When we attend a dental appointment or medical appointment for the first time we are asked to fill out a medical history form. One of the questions which appears on this form has to do with family history. Is there any heart disease, diabetes, cancer in the family? Often we will see people that tell us that their father died of a heart attack, 2 uncles had heart attacks, their grandfathers had heart attacks, and they expect to have a heart attack as well. This is true of diabetes, cancer, and even dental diseases. People will often tell me stories of how their parents wore dentures, their aunts and uncles and grandparents wore dentures, and that they are resigned to eventually wearing dentures as well. Others tell me they are terrified of the prospect of wearing dentures and will go to great lengths to preserve and save their teeth. If genetics plays such a strong role in health, how can we reverse that genetic pull?

EPIGENETICS: The following quote sums it up ... "What is Epigenetics? Epigenetics is the study of potentially heritable changes in gene expression (active versus inactive genes) that does not involve changes to the underlying DNA sequence — ... Epigenetic change is a regular and natural occurrence but can also be influenced by several factors including age, the environment/lifestyle, and disease state.

Epigenetics and the Environment:
How Lifestyle Can Influence Epigenetic Change from One Generation to the Next

The field of epigenetics is quickly growing and with it the understanding that both the environment and individual lifestyle can also directly interact with the genome to influence epigenetic change. These changes may be reflected at various stages throughout a person’s life and even in later generations. For example, human epidemiological studies have provided evidence that prenatal and early postnatal environmental factors influence the adult risk of developing various chronic diseases and behavioral disorders. ..."

SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN AND HOW DOES IT IMPACT DENTAL HEALTH? Basically what this is saying is that although we have no control over WHAT we inherit from our parents, by changing the environment around a certain condition, we can influence HOW that genetic information expresses itself in our life. For example, someone with a family history of heart disease or diabetes can minimize the risk of developing cardiac problems or diabetes by eating healthy foods, following a programme of regular excercise, and getting proper rest and relaxation. Stress reduction techniques such as meditation and visualization can also impact the genetic expression of a disease. Similarly someone with a genetic susceptibility to tooth decay or periodontal disease can minimize the risk by eating a healthy diet, attending regular dental hygiene maintenance appointments, and most importantly practicing excellent oral hygiene at home.

There are many other examples of this, and there is much research ongoing in the area of epigenetics and its application to our overall health. It is a fascinating idea and the possibilities for human potential development are huge. I hope you find this concept helpful to your dental and overall health and well-being.

Yours for better health,

Dr. Marty Frankel
Smiles by Design,
3030 - 3080 Yonge St.,

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