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More kids, fewer teeth?

A German folk saying that means "every child costs the mother one tooth," may have some truth to it, research published in the American Journal of Public Health indicates.

Women who give birth to more children tend to lose more teeth during their lives, regardless of whether they are rich or poor, researchers examining data on 2,635 U.S. women aged 18 to 64 found. The subjects were a nationally representative sample in three categories: low, middle and high socioeconomic status.

In the highest socioeconomic group, women with no children were missing on average less than one tooth, those with one child were missing about two teeth and those with four or more were missing about five teeth.

Among the women in the lowest socioeconomic group, those with no children on average were missing two teeth, those with one child were missing an average of three teeth and those with four or more were missing more than eight teeth.

The trend also held true in the middle socioeconomic group, said the researchers at New York University and Yale University in Connecticut.

"It seems that having more children is related to having fewer teeth," Dr. Stefanie Russell, the assistant professor of epidemiology and health promotion who led the research told Reuters News Service. "People might say that happens because women who are poor have more children and women who are poor are not going to be able to afford the dentist," she added. "But we found that it was true across all socioeconomic levels."

The study did not break down the results by race. Dr. Russell's conclusions are based on information on white and black non-Hispanic women who reported at least one pregnancy in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Women are more prone to periodontal disease during pregnancy, when the response of the oral tissues to the bacteria in the mouth is altered, Dr. Russell said. In addition, she said women may be less likely to see a dentist while pregnant.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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