Does Parents’ Stress Lead to Child’s Cavities?
Stress—the kind that weighs heavily upon adults’ minds, no matter what its cause—is clearly not a good thing in any context. It may be a negative factor in their children’s dental health. Scientists have tried to study the nature of the relationship between parental stress and caries (dental cavities) in their children.
One factor is financial. Parents or guardians who are barely getting by are much more likely to experience stress. Usually, such parents are also pressed for time, perhaps by working more than one job or having an extra-long commute because of slow public transportation. Less time can mean less opportunity for taking children to the dentist. And less money can mean that parents, despite possible good intentions, may feel they can’t afford dental care, especially routine visits. Although low-cost options, such as dental school clinics, may well be available, researching those possibilities takes time, which, again, overly stressed parents are less likely to have.
A generational link may also exist. Parents who are stressed may themselves come from families where dental checkups were not a top priority, and so it becomes less of a priority for their children, too. Fewer checkups and fewer reminders about the importance of daily dental health routines can mean more cavities. More cavities, and more fillings, can exacerbate fear of future dental visits.
Sometimes, the cycle begins even before a child is born. Mothers who experience poor dental health while they are pregnant may give birth to children who are more likely to have caries. The prevalence, and subsequent transfer, of the cavity-causing bacteria in the mother may be at the root of that problem.
So, while ascertaining the exact nature of cause-and-effect when it comes to parental stress and children’ cavities might be significant, one practical take-away message is clear: Parents should be aware of their own stress levels and make every effort to keep their offspring stress-free. It will make life calmer while keeping your child’s teeth and gums healthier.
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