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OTAGO, New Zealand: A study conducted by researchers at the University of Otago has found that women who smoke more than ten cigarettes a day while pregnant may negatively impact the development of their children’s teeth.
The study looked at 83 children with hypodontia—defined in the study as the developmental absence of up to five permanent teeth—and compared them with 253 children without the condition. The children’s mothers reported their levels of exposure to active and passive smoking during pregnancy, along with their caffeine and alcohol intake.
Prof. Mauro Farella, who led the research, said that hypodontia was positively linked to cigarette smoking. The study found no association between the condition and drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks however.
“There was a suggestion of a ‘biological gradient’ effect with tobacco,” said Farella, who is head of orthodontics at the University of Otago’s Faculty of Dentistry. “The more cigarettes a mother reported smoking during pregnancy, the greater the likelihood was of her child having hypodontia.”
“Though more research is needed to confirm the association we found between maternal smoking and the condition, a plausible explanation is that smoking causes direct damage to neural crest cells in developing embryos,” he explained.
The findings are in line with a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the negative impact smoking while pregnant can have on an unborn baby. Various studies have shown that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth, a low birth weight or a stillbirth.
The study, titled “Maternal smoking during pregnancy is associated with offspring hypodontia”, was published online on 23 May in the Journal of Dental Research.