Calcium important for nursing mothers' oral health

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Mothers who breastfeed should be sure to have enough Calcium in their diet, or may risk bone loss around their teeth and gums, according to a new study that appears in the January issue of the Journal of Periodontology (JOP).

Researchers from Tohoku University in Japan investigated if lactation affects alveolar bone loss, the bone surrounding the roots of teeth, in rat models of experimental periodontitis. They found mothers who are lactating could put the bone structures around their teeth at risk, especially when there was not enough Calcium in their diet.

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"Our research emphasized the importance of having a high-Calcium diet while breast-feeding," said Dr. Kanako Shoji, Division of Periodontology and Endodontology at Tohoku University. "While our study was on a rat population, the evidence confirmed that breastfeeding can cause increased bone loss in the mother, especially when the mother has insufficient Calcium intake. But additional studies in human populations are necessary to confirm these findings."

The study showed that all groups with insufficient Calcium intake saw an acute inflammatory reaction in periodontal tissues and disruption of the gingival epithelium, the tissues surrounding the teeth, in addition to increased attachment loss, and increased alveolar bone loss. Those groups which were lactating saw even greater attachment loss and bone loss.

"We know a high-Calcium diet can promote healthy teeth and gums," said Dr. Preston D. Miller, DDS, President of the American Academy of Periodontology, "But this research indicates that nursing mothers should be especially conscious of having enough Calcium in their diet. While breast milk is critical to their baby's bone development, mothers should be sure to have enough calcium, or risk bone loss in her mouth, which can worsen periodontal diseases. Given that a thorough periodontal evaluation should be done as soon as a woman finds out that she is pregnant, monitoring periodontal tissues, including more frequent cleanings during pregnancy and continuing until 3 months after delivery, will help assure periodontal health."

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