Are Crooked Teeth Genetic?

Know Your Health: How Your DNA May Affect Your Smile

By LunaDNA Contributor

The causes of crooked teeth are varied. Our ancestry may have interesting clues to the genetics of crooked teeth. Learn about crooked teeth, and how DNA may play a role in overall teeth health. 

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, an estimated 4 million people wear braces on their teeth. However, misaligned teeth are a recent development in human evolution. Early human fossils from cavemen usually have well-aligned, uniform teeth. Some anthropologists believe the development of misaligned teeth occurred when our jaws began shrinking over time due to changes in our diet that required less chewing. Today, we know that some genetic factors, such as jaw size and number of teeth, can affect misalignment, but behaviors and environmental causes are also involved.  

Are Crooked Teeth Genetic?

Crooked teeth are common over the last few hundred years, yet skulls from humans that lived thousands of years ago have well-aligned teeth. Fossils show that cavemen didn’t have many dental problems despite the lack of toothpaste and floss. Today, dental consultations are recommended before the age of 8. Learn more about crooked teeth and its genetic connections, including:  

  • What Causes Crooked Teeth? 
  • Types of Crooked Teeth 
  • Are Crooked Teeth Genetic? 
  • Ancestry of Crooked Teeth 
  • Problems Associated With Crooked Teeth 
  • How to Fix Crooked Teeth 

What Causes Crooked Teeth? 

Crooked teeth do not always happen by chance. Habits and maladies that may lead to undeveloped jaws and crowded teeth include

  • tongue thrusting (also known as reverse swallowing) 
  • thumb sucking 
  • prolonged use of pacifiers 
  • mouth breathing (due to allergies, asthma, and other conditions that cause a person to breath through his or her mouth) 
  • open mouth posture 
  • tumors of the mouth and jaw 

These habits and maladies contribute to poor jaw growth, leaving many with misaligned teeth and undeveloped jaws. This improper development can limit the space available for teeth and can prohibit them from growing in the ideal position.  

An undeveloped jaw can lead to a mouth of crowded teeth. Since orthodontia work does not usually start until all permanent teeth come in, teeth might be pulled, because the jaw is deemed too small to accommodate all the teeth.  

Mouth breathing leads to the tongue not resting in the correct position on the roof of the mouth. This can in turn lead to an underdeveloped upper and lower jaw. An upper jaw improperly developed may restrict the airway further. This can keep the mouth open, which might exacerbate the problem.  

Reverse swallowing, also known as tongue thrusting, occurs when the tongue pushes forward and the lips push back when swallowing. A child swallows at least a couple times a minute, so pushing the tongue forward against the teeth can, over time, create a condition called open bite.  

Diet may be a factor too. In the 1930s, Weston Price, an American dentist, studied various groups around the world and found that those employing a primitive diet had little tooth decay, larger jaws, and straight teeth. Orthodontics became a specialty in 1900 in response to bad habits and maladies that children had during the Industrial Revolution. After the Industrial Revolution, people swapped out a natural diet, closer to what their ancestors had eaten, for one of more processed foods. It is possible that this softer diet hindered normal jaw growth because less jaw strength was required.  

Types of Crooked Teeth  

Crooked mouthfuls of teeth come in all shapes and sizes, but there are three general classes of malocclusions, which means misaligned teeth:  

Class 1 occurs when the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower teeth, but the bite is normal. This is the most common type of crooked teeth.  

Class 2 occurs when the upper teeth and jaw severely overlap the lower teeth and jaw and is sometimes called an overbite. Difficulties in chewing can be painful and can lead to headaches and temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), a painful condition of the joint that connects your jaw to the side of your head.  

Class 3 occurs when the lower teeth project beyond the front of the upper teeth when the jaw closes and is sometimes called an underbite. Those with underbites can have trouble chewing and often suffer from headaches. Overtime, an underbite can cause TMJ.  

Are Crooked Teeth Genetic? 

Humans today are nearly identical to their ancestors who had straight teeth. This suggests that crooked teeth are partly a result of evolution. Some experts believe that the Industrial Revolution, which happened about 150 to 200 hundred years ago, triggered people to have crooked teeth.  

Interestingly, most wild mammals have straight teeth. Some researchers believe that when culture shifted from rural to manufacturing, something went awry. Others think it happened thousands of years earlier, when humans transitioned from hunting and gathering to farming. Ancestral upper and lower jaws of hunter-gatherers were more often better aligned than those of later humans. 

Ancestry of Crooked Teeth 

With the introduction of the modern baby bottle in the mid-1800s, human populations became less reliant on breastfeeding their young. Research has shown that the muscles required for an infant to breastfeed are not used as extensively when a child is bottle-fed. At the end of the 1940s, German dental experts Dr. Wilhelm Balters and Dr. Adolf Müller discovered that babies who had been breastfed had significantly fewer crooked teeth. Studies continue to be conducted to determine if there is a link between the use of bottles and the impact it has on jaw development and crooked teeth.  

Problems Associated With Crooked Teeth 

Crooked teeth make it harder to chew and can put a strain on the jaw, increasing the risk of breaking a tooth. It is also harder to clean crooked teeth, leaving the opening for cavities and other dental maladies. Protruding teeth can rub against and wear down other teeth.  

Beyond this, crooked teeth can impact overall health. This decreases the chance of bacteria going into the pockets of the gums, which can lead to gum disease. Some research suggests that, when bacteria is left untreated, it can enter the bloodstream and may lead to heart disease, diabetes, or stroke.  

While we know some genetic causes for tooth issues, much is still unknown about the connections between genes and dental problems. Researchers are hopeful that recent discoveries will open the door for the development of new and improved dental- and orthodontic-care tactics and treatments.  

LunaDNA is bringing together people and researchers to better understand life, including genetic conditions like crooked teeth. Directly drive health discovery by joining the All About Me Study. The more people who come together to contribute health data for the greater good, the quicker and more efficient research will scale, and improve the quality of life for us all.  

Click here to get started.

A man jumps in the air at the top of a mountain ridge

Power Your Personal Health Journey This New Year

Bob Kain, Chief Executive Officer at LunaPBC

As we ring in the new year with health and well-being top of mind, it’s highly beneficial to proactively manage our health efforts with a complete understanding of what “good health” truly is. Some may argue that good health is the mere absence of disease or infirmity, however according to the World Health Organization, good health is actually the state of complete physical, social and mental well-being.

For years, my wife experienced chronic migraine headaches. In order to proactively manage this condition she kept a diary, tracking the details of her experiences, from how she feels each day, to her activities, and what she eats. As a result, she’s identified patterns of health and migraine triggers beyond what her doctor has been able to identify. Based on her findings, she adopted a Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free diet and participates in daily exercise to alleviate the extensities of her headaches and prevent any further health issues.

My wife is one of many people who live with chronic health conditions. According to the National Health Council, 40% of the US population suffers from some type of chronic condition, including but not limited to fibromyalgia, depression, digestive problems, arthritis, and lack of focus. So what can we do about it? Much of the low-hanging-fruit, in terms of understanding the causes of various diseases has been identified but the diagnosis for the remaining conditions involve putting patients into “clinical buckets.” These diseases that remain untreated are more complex and remain medical mysteries. Discovering the underlying basis of these unsolved conditions requires the analysis of a deep data collected over time, including genomic, EHR, and private or daily personal data. Acquiring this data requires the participation and engagement of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people.  Institutions are therefore dependent on the trust of individuals to enable broad data sharing, however once trust is earned and data flows to the institution, what’s the incentive for  the individual to keep contributing? Why should we contribute our personal and health data in the first place and continue to contribute this data over time? What will we receive in return for our efforts?

Sharing data will enable all of us to live longer,  fuller, more fruitful lives. Contributing health and medical data to support research will accelerate health discoveries, enable people to better achieve personal health and fitness goals, while also enabling personalized medicine for all, and early disease detection.”

Studies show that 10% of our health is determined by what happens within the walls of a healthcare provider, 30% by our genetics, and 60% by environmental and behavioral factors. This last 60% is only accessible with the engagement of the individual. Discovering the basis for complex diseases can happen using artificial intelligence to analyze very large sets of genomic, medical, environmental, and personal data. Once enough people with the same illness or condition, and in many cases similar genetics, health habits, demographics, etc.,  share their data, artificial intelligence programs will decipher the underlying causes of the condition. AI can determine why a condition may specifically affect some people and not others despite having the same genetic markers or environmental exposures. Family, friends, and others in our community will reap the benefits of these discoveries for generations to come.

When we share our personal health information, each of us can use our data to assist us on our own health or wellness journeys.”

My would have loved to have a central place to record her health information instead of writing in notebooks. Moving our health information from conversations, jotted records like my wife’s, EHR’s, or even data that we haven’t shared or documented yet, to a structured, central location, will assist us on our own health and wellness journeys. If stored correctly, the data can fuel artificial intelligence algorithms that will help us find the links between our daily routine and the status of our chronic disease. Was the chocolate my wife ate the day before a trigger for her headaches, or did her hard-gym workouts in hot dry weather bring on the migraine? On a simpler note, routine analysis could help us manage our weight, achieve our fitness goals, and steer away from behaviors that lead to lifestyle diseases such as high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes.

At some point in our lives many of us, or our family members, may suffer from debilitation chronic or acute diseases, such as early onset childhood ailments, cancer, and Crohne’s disease. Genomic data is changing the way we treat children with early onset diseases and diagnose the molecular basis for most cancers. Microbiome data is sequenced in our quest to understand gut ailments, such as Crohne’s IBD, and SIBO. The new problem we are facing today is that in many cases the penetrance of the genomic marker is low. In other words, for some ailments all persons with the exact same pathogenic mutation or modification of their genome do not all come down with the disease. The genomic mutation does not guarantee a person will suffer from the ailment or when in life it might occur. The genomic marker is not 100% penetrant. The reasons for this are many fold and not always understood. The causes of these conditions are often a complex interaction between different aspects of our lives including our genome, microbiome, environment, and our daily habits. Do we drink, smoke, exercise daily or work stressful work hours? The answers are within our grasp. Technology barriers are not the issue. The challenge is collecting deep data over time at scale.

If we convince enough individuals to share data deeply and over time, we will accelerate our ability to understand the underlying basis for most diseases and chronic conditions.”

Individuals would then be rewarded through the use of their personal data to help on personal quality of life improvement journeys whether the journeys be about resolving personal conditions or achieving personal goals. The data would first enable precision medicine for all participants while  improving our day to day quality of life, our health, and provide the satisfaction of helping others with their own personal health journeys.

James White: Brothers in the Sand

Finding Resilience and Strength Through Genes

By James White, VP Experience and Member Engagement

How often do you test your mental and physical limits? What does that entail? As I grow older and my body and mind begin to age, I find myself asking myself these questions more often than not. Wondering how I’m growing as an individual, led me to embark on my greatest journey. Three years ago I tested my mental and physical limitations, and it changed me forever. 

Marathon des Sables (MdS) is considered to be the toughest foot race in the world2. The race is a grueling multi-stage adventure equivalent of five and a half marathons in six days, a total distance of some 251 km, 176 miles, through a formidable landscape in one of the world’s most inhospitable climates – the Sahara Desert. Upon learning about this race, I couldn’t have imagined a better way to truly test my limits than by doing what most others wouldn’t – sign up. And I didn’t do it alone. Turns out, the need to understand and push past the limit ran in the family. My 4 brothers signed up with me.

In 30 years, this race has taken the lives of two competitors, while thousands more have been air-lifted during the race due to dehydration, fatigue and organ failure. On average, only 80% of the field finish2 each year. It was therefore a mathematical certainty that only four of the five of us would finish the race.  Our near-impossible 36-month adventure was filmed and closely follows the trials and tribulations of myself and my four brothers while we lived on three different continents, training for and competing in what we all agreed was the hardest challenge we’ve ever experienced — apart from growing up together.

Each of us had our own mission; conquering consciences, managing mediocrity, fighting failure, dispelling demons, breaking boundaries; but the uniting motivation was to honor the then recent passing of our Grandma, a matriarch and maven of the 1920s, whilst raising money for charities around the globe. The five of us joining forces brought uncertainty, pain and the joy of pushing each other and our families to the edge. But ultimately, we believed we were stronger united and more likely to finish it together versus as individuals. 

As the middle of five brothers, I’ve had to endure the push and pull of family dynamics, making me a mediator and facilitator, but not always the best communicator. Competitive at heart, I love to push my boundaries both mentally and physically. I’ve flown in the Royal Air Force, jumped out of planes and dived the depths of the ocean. I’ve played representative sport and captained teams to unexpected success – but previously there was always something missing. 

James White: Brothers in the Sand
James White: Brothers in the Sand 2

Participating in MdS gave me a chance to assimilate my experiences over the last 30+ years and focus. Selfishly, I needed to embark on this journey for myself. Ironically, it became more about my brothers, my family and fundraising, than me. Yes, I was ready to push myself to the limit, but I didn’t realize its opportunity to inspire others and help drive positive change. 

So, what was my limiting factor? Fear and failure? I kept (and keep) asking myself what does failure look like? Does it limit? Or does measured failure lead to successful adventure? Through this journey, I reached into the depths of my soul and found dark and ugly corners, but ultimately found belief in myself. Belief in my ability to make a difference, belief that new challenges can make you and others stronger. 

As a team, we accomplished what we set out to achieve – understanding our mental and physical limits as individuals and unexpectedly, the power of a team with a unified vision. We truly resilience and strength through one another.

James White: Brothers in the Sand 3
From left to right: Henry White, Christopher White, James White, Marcus White, Stuart White

Three years later, I have had the privilege to apply my learnings to another “band of brothers” at LunaPBC, the public benefit corporation spearheading LunaDNA. As the VP of Experience and Member Engagement, I’m helping to build the first citizen-powered research community that’s putting people at the center, and as you can imagine, it’s no easy feat. I hope my experiences and efforts can empower you to begin to answer some of my questions. Consider sharing, contributing and owning what moves friends and family, community and culture, people and populations forward – health information. Alone we’re strong, together we’re powerful.

Family Health History Thanksgiving talk

Family Health History Should Be Topic of Conversation This Thanksgiving

By Genevieve Lopez, Head of Digital Engagement at LunaPBC

As we prepare for the fast-approaching holiday that unites families together nationwide over food, drinks, and much-awaited family connection, take advantage of the valuable opportunities while surrounded by your closest relatives – loved-ones that could be helpful in predicting and providing you identifiers of your future health. Every family has their own unique traditions and understanding family health history should be something to add to the Thanksgiving itinerary.

Why Health History Is Important

There’s a reason why your primary care physician asks about your family history every year. It’s important. Your family members’ health — including that of your children, sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews — can reveal a wealth of information that may directly impact you. A pattern with relatives’ health history can determine conditions that run in the family and furthermore, indicate increased risks you may have for developing a particular disease.

Although identifying these patterns do not predict your pre-disposition in developing the same condition, understanding your potential risks can prepare you to take the necessary steps to reduce its development later in life. For instance, if your grandmother passed away from breast cancer and your aunt is a breast cancer survivor, there’s a higher chance that you may have inherited BRCA-1 or BRCA-2, breast cancer genes. Additionally, family health history goes beyond hereditary genetic lineage. It also encompasses eating habits, daily activities, and environmental factors that impact health and well-being. Having this information equips you with important insight to share with your primary care physician, enables you to undergo appropriate tests and interventions, and empowers you to proactively take charge of your well-being. Especially in the case of health history, education is truly life-changing.

How to Initiate the Conversation 

So how does one become fully informed about their family health history? Initiate conversation, especially when the opportunity arises. The information you already have about your family’s health conditions may have been derived from events that dramatically impacted your life, like the passing of a grandparent or the diagnosis of a sibling.  But what about the underlying symptoms that aren’t typically discussed or identified, like a family member’s chronic pain or dramatic weight loss. Identifying patterns in symptoms like these across generations can help forecast greater health challenges that need immediate professional attention.

Family Health History Checklist 

In between turkey dinner and pumpkin pie dessert, mark-off the following checklist to ensure you’re learning as much as possible about your family health history and ultimately, yours.

Ask Questions

Considering how much your health impacts others, sharing your personal experiences and hearing others may save a life. Here are a few questions to consider asking your relatives:

  • How has your health and wellness been this year?
  • Are you experiencing any conditions or diseases you’re comfortable sharing?
  • Who in the family has also experienced similar symptoms, conditions, or diseases? 
  • What are your eating habits, activity habits, etc.?
  • What are some things you do on a regular basis to stay healthy? 

Record Information

It’s important to know your family health history and especially important to ensure you don’t forget it. Record what you learned during these conversations and store in a secure location. This can be anything from a simple word document to a detailed health family tree. The more details you can provide about your family health history, the better you can identify patterns regarding health symptoms, conditions, or diseases you may be affected by.

Share Information

During your next doctor’s visit, share the information you learned during the holidays and update your family health history paperwork or database. Based on the information you collected, you and your doctor can create a healthy plan for you to roll into the new year with health, wellness, and quality of life top of mind. 

Additionally, take a health survey on LunaDNA’s secure and private platform and earn ownership shares for sharing your family health history data to research. There’s nothing more rewarding than closing out the year sharing value to benefit the greater good of humanity and joining a health movement that powers medical breakthroughs.

To take a health survey to support research and earn shares, click here.

Electronic Health Record Integration

Give More and Get More With Your Electronic Health Records

Now, you can directly contribute to research and earn ownership shares when you upload your digital health records to LunaDNA™ beginning today!

LunaPBC™, the public benefit corporation behind LunaDNA, reached a milestone today announcing our partnership with Medfusion. The partnership enables LunaDNA members to access electronic health records (EHR) privately and securely on LunaDNA via Medfusion’s Patient Data Application Program Interfaces (APIs). 

The ability to connect personal health records – doctor visit reports, lab test results, and more – with the LunaDNA platform is a giant step towards accelerating health discovery. For the first time, meaningful longitudinal data paired with genetic and lifestyle data will be available for researchers to drive discovery. Since your health data changes over time, combining it with your medication information, your exercise habits, and your genetics, is amazingly powerful for understanding disease and wellness.

Not only does access to health record information help researchers uncover new diagnoses and treatments, it also helps you manage your own well-being. By reviewing your own records on a regular basis, you can have more informed conversations with doctors and caregivers to take control of your health. Take the first step by connecting to your physician’s portals.

Connect Your Electronic Health Records – It’s Easy! 

If you haven’t connected to your Patient Portals yet, all you need to do is contact your doctor’s office and ask how to connect to the portal. They should provide you with a link and login information. From there, it’s pretty simple to log in and access your account and health records.

When connecting your health records to LunaDNA, all you need is the name of your doctor or doctor’s office and your portal login information. We have partnered with a company with over 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry to create and manage these integrations. Your data is synced to the LunaDNA platform, encrypted, and structured to enable downstream research aligned to our consent and privacy policies.  It is also available for you download and review at any time. 

If you need help connecting your EHR to LunaDNA, you can always contact our support team at support@lunadna.com or visit our Twitter status page for updates. 

Take the first step by connecting your Patient Portals to LunaDNA.