Researcher says 'cavity gene' may exist

Six-year-old Hoxie Flowers' mom figured out a fun way to teach her son with autism how to take care of his teeth. She sings a song while brushing.

"It was hard in the beginning to brush his teeth, Hoxie's mom, Jennifer, said. "Very hard."

Flowers worried because cavities seem to run in her family.

"He's possibly prone like I am," Flowers said.

Professor Linda Niessen, dean and professor at Nova Southeastern University, is increasingly convinced there is, in fact, a cavity gene. 

"Dental research is showing us that in fact some people are much more prone to tooth decay or dental cavities than others,” Niessen said.

National statistics show that, gene or no gene, we're getting more cavities than ever before.

“We saw it increasing in adults age 21 to 64, and we saw it in adults over age 65,” Niessen said.

No matter whether you have the gene, Niessen said early and regular checkups can actually be lifesaving.

“An infection in the mouth, can in fact lead to an infection in the bloodstream, which can lead to death,” Niessen said.

The children of parents who get cavities may be at high risk, so Niessen recommends using sealants.

“Sealants are a plastic coating the dentist places on the chewing surface of the teeth where cavities are most prone,” Niessen said.

Niessen said adults should limit their caffeine, quit smoking and keep their mouth hydrated. 

Flowers said it made a huge difference to take Hoxie to a dentist who specializes in children on the autism spectrum.

“Now he runs in and brushes his teeth," Flowers said. "It's fun for him now.”

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