Maternal dental history, child's birth outcome and early cognitive development


Julie Daniels, MPH, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, CB#7435, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7435, USA. E-mail:


Prenatal exposure to high levels of mercury, radiation and inflammation have been associated with adverse reproductive outcomes such as increases in preterm delivery, low birthweight and delayed neurodevelopment. Few data are available to evaluate the potential effects of prenatal low-level exposure to these factors as may occur during dental care. We evaluated maternal dental history prior to and during pregnancy in relation to birth outcomes and early communicative development among offspring in a large cohort (n = 7375) of British children born in 1991–92. Dental history was assessed by questionnaire. The child's communicative development was assessed using the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory at 15 months of age. Total mercury was measured in umbilical cord tissue for a subset of the children.

Overall, dental care, including amalgam fillings, was not associated with birth outcomes or language development. Having X-rays taken during pregnancy was not associated with birthweight measured continuously (b = 14.7, P = 0.4), but was associated with slightly increased odds of having a term, low-birthweight baby (OR 1.9, [95% confidence interval 1.0, 3.4]). More detailed evaluation of the potential adverse effects of elective dental treatment during pregnancy, particularly dental X-rays, may be warranted.