Tooth decay or dental caries is
the most common chronic disease among children globally. Although it may not be
a fatal disorder, tooth decay can negatively affect the child's quality of
life. Many factors may cause dental caries - cariogenic bacteria, fluoride
exposure, dietary habits, and oral hygiene practices are some of them.
Since tooth formation and
mineralization starts in the 13th week of gestation, maternal
nutrition status also plays an important role in tooth development. Previous
studies have shown that high intake of calcium supplements can reduce the risk
of dental caries in the child even at 12 years of age. However, not much
information is available on the role of dietary calcium intake during pregnancy
and the child's dental health.
So, Keiko Tanaka and her
colleagues from Japan took up a study to find out the link between intake of
dairy products and calcium during pregnancy and the risk of dental caries in
Three hundred and fifteen Japanese mother-child pairs were
included in the study. Data on maternal nutrition and dietary habits was
assessed through a diet history questionnaire. Children were classified as
having dental caries based on the number of decayed or filled primary teeth
between 41 and 50 months of age.
The study revealed interesting results -
• Higher maternal intake of cheese during pregnancy
decreased the risk of tooth decay in children.
• Higher maternal intake of dairy products, yogurt and
calcium during pregnancy too reduced the risk of childhood dental caries.
• There was no evident association between maternal milk
intake and risk of tooth decay in the child.
The researchers, however, could not explain the mechanisms
underlying the association between high cheese intake in pregnancy and low
dental carries in the child. 'Components of cheese other than calcium might be
responsible for the protective effects of maternal cheese intake against dental
caries in children. Alternatively, high maternal intake of cheese may simply
reflect a healthier diet and /or lifestyle in general', they believe.
The researchers ascribed the positive association between
maternal intake of dairy products and childhood dental caries to calcium intake
or to 'unmeasured constituents in relation to calcium'. According to them
'Higher maternal calcium intake during pregnancy might influence fetal tooth
mineralization, causing tooth enamel to be more acid-resistant' and
consequently resistant to tooth decay.
They further pointed to the studies that showed that
'teeth with high lead levels are generally more susceptible to dental caries'
and that 'calcium supplementation during pregnancy was associated with reduced
blood lead levels'. They hypothesized that the lead levels in the pregnant
mother might be an important factor that affected the mineralization of teeth in
The researchers suggested further studies to clarify 'the
mechanisms underlying the possible inverse associations between maternal intake
of dairy products and calcium and the risk of dental caries in children'.
Tanaka K, Miyake Y, Sasaki S, Hirota Y. Dairy
products and calcium intake during pregnancy and dental caries in children.
Nutr J. 2012 May 17;11(1):33.