Stress during pregnancy has been associated with a number of poor health implications for offspring, including low birthweight and increased risk of asthma and allergies. But for the first time, a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that chronic stress in pregnancy may increase a child’s risk for dental caries.
Poor oral hygiene and high consumption of sugary foods and drinks are common causes of dental caries in children, but new research suggests that the levels of stress a mother experiences throughout pregnancy may also play a role.
The research team analysed the data of 716 children and their mothers who were part of the 1988-94 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Children included in the study were aged two to six years, while their mothers were aged 30 and older. Biological markers of chronic stress were analysed during the mothers’ pregnancies.
Compared with mothers who had no biological markers for stress, those who had two or more were significantly more likely to have offspring with dental caries.
Researchers said that this study uniquely highlights the importance of considering the influence of maternal stress on children’s oral health and said that their findings suggest that policies to improve children’s dental health should include strategies to improve mothers’ quality of life during pregnancy.