“Gain a child, lose a tooth”—perhaps you’ve heard of this adage, a folktale saying which popularized the idea that for every child a woman births, she loses a tooth. The saying suggests that fertility is linked to tooth loss possibly because pregnancy interferes with calcium absorption, bone density and hormones that affect oral health. Regardless of its origins though, this old wives’ tale was considered a myth, because there has never been any proof to prove its validity—until now. Science shows there may be more to this than we thought.
Recent findings from a study conducted at New York University College of Dentistry has discovered that pregnancy is, in fact, linked to poor oral health for American women. In the study, 2,635 pregnant woman struggled with dental problems, which increased with each successive pregnancy, including periodontal disease and missing teeth. In fact, women with three kids possessed an average of four fewer teeth than moms with two kids.
Pregnancy raises a woman’s risk for gingivitis, or gum disease. These risks and symptoms often disappear after a woman gives birth, but multiple pregnancies exposes women to more frequent instances of gingivitis. Such frequent exposure puts women at risk for periodontal disease and eventually tooth loss, hence the saying “Gain a child, lose a tooth.”
Besides biological factors caused by pregnancy itself, like hormonal changes in the body, the study found that the main reasons for poor oral health in pregnant women is actually their limited access to dental care. Expecting mothers and women with multiple children are more likely to skip dentist visits for regular cleanings and checkups. Their own preventative care is pushed to the back burner when their children’s health is put first. What’s more is that only half of expecting mothers who reported dental problems actually sought treatment.
“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,” says Dr. Stefanie Russell, researcher at NYU’s College of Dentistry. “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.”
Expectant mothers and mothers of large families need to be especially vigilant when it comes to their own oral health care. The findings suggest, of course, that the best method for battling the alarming truth of this study, is preventative care. Expectant mothers don’t have to be victims of gum disease and tooth decay because they’re entirely avoidable with the right lifestyle choices and habits. Brushing twice a day, flossing, and regular visits to your dentist, even during pregnancy, is especially important to avoid being an old wives’ tale statistic.
If you’re a resident of the Fairfax, Virginia area and you’re looking for a skilled and experienced preventive dentist during and after your pregnancies, call 703-323-8200 or email Dr. Pamela Marzban, DDS today to arrange a consultation.