Higher Tooth Loss Risk for Mothers With More Kids

Nicky Broyd

March 14, 2018

Mothers with a larger family have a higher risk for tooth loss, according to a large, mainly European study.

It found that mothers of 3 children have an average of 4 fewer teeth than those with 2 kids.

Study

Researchers analysed health data collected in 2013 from the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe. They concentrated on respondents who were over the age of 50 from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Israel.

The survey included questions on reproductive history and the number of natural teeth of 34,843 respondents with an average age of 67.

Findings

Normally adults have 28 teeth plus 4 wisdom teeth in their mouth. Participants in the survey reported an average of 10 missing teeth.

The researchers weren't interested in wisdom teeth, neither were they looking at single births. Instead they looked at the impact of having twins or triplets, and also the sex of the first two children, assuming that if the first two were of the same sex, parents might be tempted to have another child.

They found that a third child after two of the same sex was associated with significantly more missing teeth for women when compared with parents whose first two children were different sexes.

They say this suggests that an additional child might be detrimental to the mother's mouth health.

However, they acknowledge that their analysis only covered small groups with particular types of fertility patterns, so the results should be interpreted with caution.

Reaction

Commenting on the study, the British Dental Association's scientific adviser, Professor Damien Walmsley, said in an email: "Although oral health in the UK has been improving over recent decades for both adults and children, stark inequalities persist.

"There are many factors that contribute to poor dental health and tooth loss, not least low socio-economic status or deprivation, smoking, and frequent snacking on sugary foods and drinks.

"However, there is much we can do to manage this risk, regardless of family size or age, and that's to limit sugary treats to mealtimes, brush teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste, including last thing at night, and seeing the dentist regularly.

"It's also important to access dental care during pregnancy and the good news is that dental treatment on the NHS is free for pregnant women and remains free for 1 year after the birth of the baby."

SOURCES:

Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health: Gain a child, lose a tooth? Using natural experiments to distinguish between fact and fiction

British Dental Association

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