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News / March 11, 2014

Maternal saliva predicts dental caries

by Guy Hiscott

A mother’s saliva can predict an infant’s early childhood caries, according to research.

Researchers found that caries and oral infection in children was directly linked to higher levels of salivary mutans streptococci (MS) and lactobacilli (LB) in their mothers.

The study examined 243 mother-child pairs for a 36-month child dental assessment.

Each pair returned for questionnaires, dental assessments and regular saliva collections after the child was born. The mothers also gave a saliva sample before their child was born.

The study found that 34% of the mothers’ children had caries at 36 months, while 31% had untreated tooth decay. All of the mothers ‘had a caries experience’.

It was also noted that breastfeeding or sharing utensils increased the chances of child caries than ‘broader potential sources of infection’, such as nursery or through siblings.

The researchers concluded: ‘Broadly implemented maternal-child health initiatives might contribute meaningful reductions in oral health disparities by helping to break an intergenerational chain of oral health disadvantage.’

The study was conducted by researchers at the Los Angeles School of Dentistry at the University of California and Chapel Hill School of Dentistry at the University of North Carolina.

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