Having more kids means more dental problems

Laura Mappas
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Dental problems in children. Image: Getty

More kids can mean big dental problems for parents.

US researchers find some truth in the old German folk saying "every child costs the mother one tooth".

A tooth per child
While the saying may be a bit off on its calculations, scientists in the US have found that women who give birth to more children tend to lose more teeth throughout their lives.

"Having more children is related to having fewer teeth," says Dr Stefanie Russell, who led the research team at New York University's College of Dentistry. But she is quick to point out that it is not due to the cost of dental care.

"People might say that happens because women who are poor have more children and women who are poor are not going to be able to afford the dentist," Dr Russell says. "But we found that it was true across all socioeconomic levels."

Money doesn't matter
The researchers examined data on 2635 women, ranging in ages from 18 to 64, and sorted them into three groups based on their socioeconomic status. The results from all three groups were consistent — the more children the women had, the more teeth they had lost, regardless of their socioeconomic standing.

Dental care is key
What was more likely to be the cavity culprit was gingivitis. When a woman is pregnant the response of the oral tissues to the bacteria in the mouth is altered, making mums-to-be more prone to the gum disease. Women who have multiple children are consequently more susceptible to the condition.

Gingivitis is a build-up of these oral bacteria between the teeth and gums, which causes inflammation and bleeding. If left untreated it can lead to serious gum disease and even tooth loss.

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