In young children, certain social and psychological factors seem to increase the risk of tooth decay, a new study finds.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada did the study. They kept track of 132 kindergarten children for 2 years. Nearly half of the children had tooth decay.
Decay was linked with three factors:
- High levels of decay-causing bacteria
- High levels of a hormone called cortisol
- A family income below poverty level
Children with the most decay had high levels of decay-causing bacteria in their mouths. They also had high levels of cortisol in their saliva. Cortisol is released in response to stress. It aids in the body's digesting of sugars.
The researchers also examined any baby teeth that were normally lost during the study. Children with more cortisol in their saliva had baby teeth with thinner, softer enamel.
The authors suggest that the process of producing a cavity in a tooth is influenced by factors such as poverty level and stress.