Dental asymmetry, maternal obesity, and smoking



This study examines the levels of fluctuating dental asymmetry in four samples of school children: those whose mothers were obese and had smoked during the pregnancy concerned (n = 111); those whose mothers were obese non-smokers (n = 114); those whose mothers were non-obese smokers (n = 104); and those whose mothers were lean non-smokers (n = 111). The degree of fluctuating asymmetry was assessed by means of a rescaled asymmetry measure. Obesity was defined as Quetelet's index in excess of 30, and smoking status as at least 20 cigarettes per day during the pregnancy concerned. When the magnitudes of fluctuating asymmetry in children of lean smokers were compared to the control group of lean non-smokers, no significant univariate differences were found. Children of obese mothers, whether these smoked or not, were found to have significantly raised levels of asymmetry. An analysis of variance confirmed that the combination of obesity and maternal smoking was a significant predictor of fluctuating dental asymmetry. The teeth involved tended to be the maxillary first incisor and molars. It is concluded that maternal obesity has a destabilizing effect on the developing fetus and that this effect appears to be enhanced in obese mothers who smoked. This effect was absent in lean mothers, irrespective of their smoking status. Am J Phys Anthropol 102:133–139. © 1997 Wiley-Liss, Inc.