Stress During Pregnancy Could Increase Child’s Risk of Tooth Decay

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Marji_200915According to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, chronic stress during pregnancy could increase the child’s risk for dental caries—also known as tooth decay or dental rottenness.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that over 40% of children between the ages two and 11 in the U.S. have had tooth decay, or dental caries, in their primary teeth. Approximately 21% of children between the ages of six and 11 have experienced dental caries in their adult teeth.

Researchers analyzed data of 716 children and their mothers who took part in the 1988–1994 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Children in the study were between the ages of two and six years old; their mothers were 30 years of age or older.

Biological indicators of chronic stress were tested during the mothers’ pregnancy terms. The team analyzed blood levels of such factors as high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, glucose, C-reactive protein, triglycerides, blood pressure, and waist circumference, using markers of allostatic load (AL).

The team also assessed each mother’s socioeconomic status, the amount of child dental visits, whether the child ate breakfast daily, and whether the mothers breastfed their child.

Researchers discovered that mothers with two or more AL markers were more likely to have children with dental caries. They also found that dental caries among children was more common in those who were not breastfed.

Lower incidences of breastfeeding were largely common among mothers with a lower  socioeconomic status. When compared to mothers with a higher income, mothers with lower incomes were less likely to have taken their child to the dentist the previous year. They were also less likely to feed their child a daily breakfast.

Researchers conclude that this study is the first to identify stress as a driver of the link between low socioeconomic status and an increased risk of dental caries among children.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Whiteman, H., “Stress in Pregnancy May Raise Risk for Dental Caries in Offspring,” Medical News Today web site, September 18, 2015;
Wael, S., et al., “Maternal allostatic load, caretaking behaviors, and child dental caries experience: A cross-sectional evaluation of linked mother-child data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,” American Journal of Public Health September 17, 2015, doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302729.