Does having children affect women's oral health? A longitudinal study

J Public Health Dent. 2022 Jan;82(1):31-39. doi: 10.1111/jphd.12466. Epub 2021 Jun 14.


Background: Many believe women's oral health deteriorates as a result of having children. If so, such associations should exist among women but not among men. The aims of this study were to investigate whether number of children is associated with experience of dental disease and tooth loss among both men and women and to examine whether this association is affected by other variables of interest.

Methods: This study used data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development study, a longitudinal study of 1037 individuals (48.4% female) born from April 1972 to March 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand, who have been examined repeatedly from birth to age 45 years.

Results: Data were available for 437 women and 431 men. Those with low educational attainment were more likely to have more children and began having children earlier in life. Having more children was associated with experiencing more dental caries and tooth loss by age 45, but this association was dependent on the age at which the children were had. Those entering parenthood earlier in life (by age 26) had poorer dental health than those entering parenthood later in life, or those without children. There was no association between number of children and periodontal attachment loss (PAL). Low educational attainment, poor plaque control, never routine dental attendance, and smoking (for PAL) were associated with PAL, caries experience, and tooth loss.

Conclusions: Social factors associated with both the timing of reproductive patterns and health behaviors influence the risk of dental disease and its management.

Keywords: caries; dental attendance; level of education; parity; periodontal disease; pregnancy; social factors; socioeconomic position; tooth loss; women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Dental Caries*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oral Health
  • Tooth Loss*