The Dentistry website today reported that mothers with poor oral health are likely to have children who also have poor oral health when they reach adulthood.
A new 27-year research project provides strong evidence that children whose mothers suffer from oral problems, are more likely to grow up with above average levels of tooth loss, tooth decay and fillings. This strengthens the idea that it is not just environmental factors that affect particular people, originally shown by Per Axelsson in Sweden in the 1970s who found that a child's likelihood of decay is determined by the amount of bacteria in the mother's mouth and this is passed from mother to child.
The research project also commented on the influence of environmental risk factors on oral health including social economic status (SES), attitudes, beliefs and oral health related knowledge persisting across generations, providing further evidence in how a mother's view of her own oral health can affect that of her child's.
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said 'If further findings into oral health risks transmitting from one generation to the next can be substantiated, then we must target parents to educate their children in the hope they can better their own oral health and pass the message on to future generations.'
Although the report is based on findings in the western world, our Dental Outreach Projects regularly come across cases of extreme decay. Diet, environment are to blame but what we always find is lack of education about oral hygiene. We deliberately go to areas that have no access to dental care, but most of the people that queue up at the clinic have never even seen a dentist. They do not know how to brush their teeth or what foods to avoid. A few years ago in India, while we were still sorting out the logistics, the school we were planning to host the temporary clinic from, put in a request for sweets for the children to encourage them to come. Sweets on a dental project???!!!! We convinced them toothbrushes would be a better gift and made sure we put some education classes in place so that they understood how to use them.
Educating mothers and children all over the world is key to better oral care. That way, whether it is genetic or environmental or both, we hopefully won't see queues of kids with abscesses each time we set up camp in a rural village overseas.