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Most people understand all too well what stress can do to their mental and overall health. However, what many might not realize is the effect stress can have on the babies of pregnant women.
Stress during pregnancy has long been linked to a number of poor health implications for children, including an increased risk of allergies and asthma and low birth weight. For the first time, however, a new study suggests that chronic stress during pregnancy may also increase a child’s risk of tooth decay.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Dental Institute of King’s College London and was published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Dentist in McKinney Blog – A Stressful Connection
Tooth decay ranks as the number one chronic illness among kids in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 42 percent of kids between the ages of 2 to 11 suffer from tooth decay in their primary teeth, or baby teeth, while 21 percent of kids between the ages of 6 to 11 have suffered the effects of tooth decay in their adult teeth.
While combination of poor oral hygiene and high sugar intake contributes to the number of children that suffer from tooth decay, researchers suggest the level of stress a mother experiences during pregnancy may also play a role.
Researchers began analyzing the data of over 700 children and their mothers who participated in the 1988-1994 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Children involved in the study were between the ages of 2 to 6, while their mothers were all over the age of 30.
Biological markers of chronic stress were analyzed during the mothers’ pregnancy. Researchers paid close attention to the blood levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, C-reactive protein, glucose, triglycerides, as well as the expectant mothers waist circumference and blood pressure.
In addition to cataloging the number of tooth decay cases among the children of the women, researchers also assessed the mothers’ socioeconomic status, whether the mothers breastfeed their babies, number of child dental visits, and whether the kids ate a daily breakfast, among other day-to-day behaviors.
Dentist in McKinney Blog – Maternal Stress a Risk Factor for Decay
When compared to mothers who had no biological stress markers, women who exhibited multiple signs of stress were more likely to have children who would suffer from tooth decay.
Furthermore, researchers discovered incidence of tooth decay among kids was more common among those who were not breastfed, and lower incidence of breastfeeding was significantly more common among mothers with a lower socioeconomic status.
Lower-income mothers were also less likely to take their kids to the dentist and less likely to feed their kids breakfast every day, compared to mothers from a higher socioeconomic status.
While previous research has linked low socioeconomic status with increase risk of tooth decay among kids, researchers say their study is the first to identify stress as a potential risk factor for tooth decay.
At McKinney Smiles, your dentist in McKinney, TX, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have about the role stress can play in your oral health. Feel free to ask Dr. Lawrence during your next appointment.