The composition of our oral bacteria when we are very young is predominantly influenced by our genetic background. But as we age, this heritable factor wanes and non-heritable ones such as diet and oral hygiene play a stronger role in shaping the oral microbiome.
This idea is supported by a new study – led by the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in La Jolla, CA – which has been published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. It investigated the oral microbiomes of identical and non-identical twins in childhood.
In their study paper, the authors explain that tooth decay commonly results when certain types of bacteria metabolize “frequent sugar intake.” This leads to an acid environment in the mouth that attacks tooth enamel and causes cavities.
As expected, they found that the oral microbiomes of identical twins were more similar to each other than those of non-identical twins. This, the researchers say, suggests that the host genetic background influences the types of bacteria present in the mouth.
But they also found that the types of bacteria most closely linked to host genetic background – the so-called heritable bacteria – were not those that play a role in tooth decay.
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