The old wives tale, "for every child the mother loses a tooth," has some validity, according to New York University College of Dentistry's Dr. Stefanie Russell.
Russell's paper, entitled "Exploring Pathways between Parity and Dental Health in U.S. Women," is being presented at the 83rd General Session of the International Association for Dental Research (IDAR) in Baltimore, MD, March 8th and 10th. This is the first U.S. study conducted that shows a link between number of pregnancies and oral health problems.
Dr. Russell's study looked at 2,635 white and black non-Hispanic women aged 18-64 who reported at least one pregnancy. The data were selected from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), a nationally representative study of the U.S. population.
Dr. Russell found that childbirth is related to dental disease in American women. Although further study is needed to determine the specific reasons for the link, Dr. Russell offers these hypotheses:
* While it has been shown that pregnancy raises the risk of gingivitis (gum disease), the gingivitis usually goes away after the birth of the child. But if a woman has repeated pregnancies and more frequent outbreaks of gingivitis, she may develop periodontal disease, which if left untreated can eventually cause tooth loss.
* Many dentists are reluctant to treat pregnant women, and women who have to care for more children may have less time to visit the dentist.
* Mothers with several children may be more likely to eat the "junk food" that their kids are eating.
Dr. Russell's findings suggest that women with several children need to be especially vigilant about their oral health. "We, as a society, need to be more aware of the challenges that women with several children may face in getting access to dental care," Dr. Russell says. "That means offering these women the resources and support they need, which can be as simple as making sure a working mother gets time off from work to see the dentist."
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