“She’s got her dad’s teeth…”

Or “He’s got his mother’s smile”.

shutterstock_120739180The accusations fly in my surgery when I tell parents that their children need braces. Funnily enough, if just Mum is present, it’s Dad’s fault…and Dad’s are lightening fast at blaming Mum if she isn’t there to defend herself.

So how true is this? How much of your teeth and jaws do you inherit from your parents? Can you lay the blame at their door for needing those braces?

Face facts

Take a look at your close family. Familiar looking, aren’t they? That nose, those cheek bones, that jaw line.

Facial characteristics tend to be quite “heritable”…they tend to run in families. And as you receive genes from both Mum and Dad, you stand a good chance of having some characteristics of both.

If you’re lucky, it’ll be the best of both. If not…well, that’s life!

This does have an impact sometimes for braces. If you’ve inherited your mum’s small jaw, you may have problems with crowded teeth as there may not be enough room for them.

If you bear the burden of your dad’s strong jaw, you may have an “underbite” at the front.

Both these situations may require teeth to be extracted and braces if you want that Hollywood smile.

So what about the teeth themselves?

The truth about teeth

Not so much so.

Crooked lower teeth for example may be due to baby teeth being lost slightly early or too late when you were younger…or maybe you had a decayed tooth taken out.

Or sticking out top teeth. That may be because you kept sucking your thumb.

Both these problems CAN be inherited from your parents. But there is more room for “environmental” factors to play.

And general oral health is certainly down to you rather than DNA. There is no gene for tooth brushing!

But some “dental characteristics” are quite heritable. Missing teeth is a common one.

About 5% of the UK population are not born with all of their 32 adult teeth. The most commonest missing tooth is the wisdom tooth, closely followed by the lower second premolar (count five teeth back from the middle…is yours there?).

The upper lateral incisor (second from the middle) is also sometimes absent (or small or peg-shaped) which can require a combination of orthodontic treatment and veneers to give a nice result.


So you are probably justified in directing your finger of blame at your embattled parents for some things…but be gentle with them…it’s not all their fault.

(Besides which, they would only blame your grandparents!).

What is your best and worst feature that you’ve inherited from the genetic bank of Mum and Dad?