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Mom playing with son on a floorYour parents have a huge impact on your dental health, but perhaps not in the way you expect.

A new study from a team of Australian researchers at the University of Melbourne has found that there is little to no link between genetics and dental health. While the study does not rule out the possibility of a link, the study’s authors found that the participant’s genetic makeup did not predispose them to more tooth decay.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t inherit bad dental hygiene from your parents. In fact, children’s dental health is strongly impacted by their parent’s health.

Published in a recent issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, the study found that young children with obese or overweight mothers were much more likely to have cavities than their peers.

While many young children are scared of going to the dentist, most physicians recommend that children start going to the dentist regularly as soon as their first baby teeth start to appear, usually by 12 months of age. Adults should visit the dentist twice a year. However, many of us fall short of those guidelines.

Here in the United States, only 127.6 million adults visit the dentist at least once per year.

In Australia, like in the United States, many young children develop bad dental hygiene early in life. The study found that one in three Australian kids had some degree of tooth decay before their first day of school.

So why do children with obese mothers have more tooth decay?

“The relationship between maternal obesity and child tooth decay is complex,” said Dr. Mihiri Silva. “Perhaps the mother’s weight has a biological influence on the developing fetus or perhaps the risk of decay rises because of increased sugar consumption in that household.”

While baby teeth are temporary, poor dental health early in life is associated with a greater risk of diabetes and other deadly diseases.