Mom’s Oral Health Predicts Infant’s Oral Health

Mothers share many health outcomes with their children.  This is due, in part, to shared genes, shared social environment and shared health knowledge and attitudes.  Mothers also share oral bacteria with their children. Specific strains can be identified in both mothers and their children.  Mothers with high salivary levels of mutans streptococci (MS) are more likely to have children with MS colonization.  Mothers of children with caries are also more likely to have high MS levels. 

Researchers at several universities in California participated in a long-term observational study of mothers and their children. Mothers were entered into the study during their second trimester of pregnancy in a community clinic near the U.S./Mexico border. Mothers were 18 to 33 years of age. Their saliva was tested for MS and lactobacillus (LB) during pregnancy and at four, nine, 12, 24 and 36 months postpartum. Clinical exams were also done at these times
plus a series of questions. The study included 243 motherchild pairs from low-income, Mexican-American families.

All of the mothers had experienced dental caries. Nearly 60 percent of the mothers had untreated decay at all visits.  At 36 months, 34 percent of the children had caries.  Mothers with high levels of MS were likely to have children with high MS levels as well. Mothers with high levels of MS during the study were more likely to have children with caries. Mothers with low levels of MS were more likely to have caries-free children.

Chaffee, B., Gansky, S., Weintraub, J., Featherstone, J., Ramos-Gomez, F.: Maternal Oral Bacterial Levels Predict Early Childhood Caries Development. J Dent Res 93:(3) 238-244, 2014.