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Gain a Child, Lose a Tooth: Myth or Reality?
Credit: Pregnancy photo via Shutterstock

This well-known tale asserts that for every child a woman has, she is bound to lose a tooth, mostly because of how hormonal changes during pregnancy affect oral health. While there may not be a one-to-one ratio between the number of children a woman has and the number of teeth she loses, studies have actually found a link between pregnancy and dental issues.

In 2005, a study of more than 2,500 pregnant women by the New York University College of Dentistry found that as her number of children increases, so does the mother's risk of losing teeth. More children also equated to a greater risk of developing periodontal disease.

There are several things that could cause affect a pregnant woman's oral health. Some are morning sickness (vomiting erodes tooth enamel); dry mouth from hormonal changes (less saliva increases the risk of cavities); and an increased desire for sugary and starchy foods (which can deteriorate teeth). On top of this, research has shown pregnant women are less likely to visit their dentists.

But these issues are not new. A 2008 study in the journal Current Anthropology found that women have had worse dental health than men ever since the rise of agriculture 10,000 years ago and the subsequent boom in the human population.

Gain a child, lose a tooth? Probably not. Gain a child, gain a cavity? Perhaps.

This story was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow Life's Little Mysteries @llmysteries. We're also on Facebook & Google+.