Having a larger family is connected to a heightened tooth loss risk for mothers, suggest the results of a European study published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
The popular saying: ‘gain a child, lose a tooth’ suggests that fertility may be linked to tooth loss, but there are no hard data to back this up.
To try and plug this gap, researchers from Germany and The Netherlands drew on data from Wave 5 of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE).
SHARE contains information on the health, educational attainment, and household income of more than 120,000 adults aged 50+ from 27 European countries plus Israel.
Wave 5 was conducted in 2013 and included questions on the full reproductive history and number of natural teeth of 34,843 survey respondents from 14 countries.
The average age of the respondents in Wave 5 was 67, and they reported an average of 10 missing teeth—normally adults have 28 plus four wisdom teeth in their mouth.
As expected, tooth loss increased with age, ranging from nearly seven fewer teeth for women in their 50s-60s up to 19 fewer teeth for men aged 80 and above.
Higher levels of educational attainment were also linked to lower risk of tooth loss among women.
The researchers looked at the potential impact of having twins or triplets rather than one child, and the sex of the first two children, on the assumption that if the first two were of the same sex, the parents might be tempted to try for a third child.
They found that a third child after two of the same sex was associated with significantly more missing teeth for women (but not men) if compared with parents whose first two children were different sexes.
This suggests that an additional child might be detrimental to the mother’s mouth health—but not the father’s—said the researchers.