Trickle-Down Stress

Chronic maternal stress linked to cavities in children


It seems that socioeconomic status has the potential to affect much more than what a person can buy or own.

A new study from the UK found that chronic maternal stress due to low socioeconomic status may be linked to an increased risk of cavities in children. While previous studies have found a link between socioeconomic status and cavities, this study focuses on the potential "pathway" between the two.

"We know that low socioeconomic status is associated with chronic exposure to adverse living circumstances," said lead study author Erin E. Masterson, a PhD candidate in the School of Public Health and Dentistry at the University of Washington, in a press release. "These take a toll on a person biologically and also affect behavior.

Masterson added, "This study uniquely highlights the importance of considering the influence of socioeconomic status and maternal stress on children's oral health through mothers' struggles to adopt healthy patterns that are major predictors of dental cavities, such as brushing her children's teeth regularly, maintaining healthy dietary habits and taking regular visits to the dentist for preventive care."

For this study, Masterson and team looked at data on 716 mother-child pairs in the US. All children were between 2 and 6 years old, and the mothers were age 30 on average.

Dental cavities were more common among children whose mother had two or more biological markers of chronic stress — an incident known as allostatic load (AL).

Mothers with two or more markers of AL were also much less likely to breastfeed. Similarly, children who were not breastfed were about 30 percent more likely to have cavities than children who were.

This study was published Sept. 17 in the American Journal of Public Health.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and the National Institutes of Health funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.