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Researcher Finds Link Between Pregnancy and Tooth Loss

Women with multiple children need to be especially vigilant about oral health, findings suggest

TUESDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- There's some truth to the old wives' tale that "for every child, the mother loses a tooth," according to a New York University professor who found that women with more children are more likely to have missing teeth.

Dr. Stefanie Russell, an assistant professor of epidemiology and health promotion, examined data on 2,635 women, ages 18 to 64, who reported at least one pregnancy in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The findings were published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

"This is the first time we've seen a connection between pregnancy and tooth loss affecting women at all socioeconomic levels in a large, heterogeneous sample of the U.S. population," Russell said in a prepared statement.

Certain biological and behavioral changes related to pregnancy and childbirth may be the cause of this tooth loss, Russell said:

  • Pregnancy can make women more prone to gingivitis (gum inflammation), and repeated pregnancies can result in more frequent outbreaks of gingivitis that may cause tooth loss in women with periodontitis.
  • Women may delay dental treatment due to financial concerns related to having children.
  • Caring for children may lead a mother to reduce the time she spends on her own oral health.

"Although further research is needed on the specific reasons for the link between pregnancy and tooth loss, it is clear that women with multiple children need to be especially vigilant about their oral health," Russell said.

"We, as a society, need to be more aware of the challenges that women with children may face in getting access to dental care. 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."

More information

Visit the American Dental Association for more on pregnancy and dental health.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: New York University, news release, May 29, 2008

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