If you’re prone to cavities, the fault may lie in your genes.

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So, what are our options when it comes to dental filings?

If you're one of those unlucky people who have the best oral health regime but a mouth full of fillings, the problem may be genetic.

Thanks to genetics handed down through generations, scientists may have just hit upon the reason why some of us develop cavities, even though we brush our teeth for two minutes twice a day or more and floss regularly.

Meanwhile, other people can snack on sugary treats and be a tad less attentive to the job of keeping their mouth clean – and still have unfilled molars. Hmmmm, the science of genetics can be unfair, can’t it?

The researchers from the University of Zurich have only just unearthed the gene complex responsible for the formation of tooth enamel.

They used mice to demonstrate that there is a direct link between mutations in the genetic blueprints for tooth enamel proteins and the development of any defects.

Their findings go a long way towards improving our understanding of the production of tooth enamel.

When it comes to our teeth, they all have bacteria on the surface that attacks the enamel but, if defective, then tooth decay strikes.

The scientists now believe that this study may help in the development of dental products that can be designed to hinder the progress of tooth cavities in the event of defective tooth enamel.

But, while we wait for that to happen, what are our options when it comes to filling those holes?

For those of us of a certain age, the silver amalgam fillings of yesteryear may blight what is otherwise an acceptable smile.

The poor aesthetics notwithstanding, this type of filling is strong and long lasting and, despite a poor press in some areas thanks to its mercury content, many dentists will avoid replacing them with white fillings, unless they crack or break.

In this situation, you can request a nicer-looking white filling. But, be warned, some dentists are a little reluctant to place them in posterior teeth (the ones we primarily use for eating) because they come under a lot of stress – white fillings in these teeth are not always successful.

Natural fillings are more expensive but, in an aesthetically driven culture, we are aware not only of the teeth that show when we smile, but also of those we show when we laugh, too, and silver fillings can look ageing.

There are new materials being developed constantly and some white fillings are comparable with the strength of silver amalgam fillings.

There are also the alternative cosmetic options of crowns, inlays – and veneers for front teeth – so speak to your dentist about what suits your needs the best.
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