As a mom who had just escaped the two-under-2 phase, I felt like my long-overdue trip to the dentist was a vacation: I was child-free, my feet were up, and I almost fell blissfully asleep as I waited for the perfect report I had received from every dentist I had visited in my 40 years of life.
Then the dentist walked in and my streak was broken. I had my first cavity ever. Not to worry, he told me. “I see this happen to a lot of moms—especially moms with two kids.” I couldn’t figure out how this had happened. Nothing had changed in my dental care. Could there be something to what the dentist said? Could I somehow blame my kids for my cavity?
My follow-up appointment came and went without fanfare, and I forgot the dentist’s theory as soon as I left his office. But then Stephanie Manganelli, the mother of two toddlers and a co-founder of Stowaway Collection Maternity, happened to mention her own less-than-stellar dentist appointment in a Facebook group for mom entrepreneurs that we are both a part of. When I asked her about it, she said, “I had one cavity my entire life. But when I became a mom, my mouth felt like it was falling apart. After my first son was born, I had five cavities, and after my second, I had 10 more cavities, and now I need a root canal with gum surgery.” Two more members of the group chimed in with tales of their own post-baby dental decline. Could it be a coincidence, or is this really a thing?
To find out more, I posted this question on a different Facebook page for local moms in the New Jersey city where I live: “How would you describe your oral health after having kids?” I suddenly heard story after story about women who developed significant dental issues only after they became mothers. One mother said she had her first root canal three days after delivering her first baby; she went on to have four more root canals and four crowns put in. Another said she’d had more than 10 cavities after the birth of her first child, a root canal after her second, and she’s afraid to find out what’s in store at the end of her third pregnancy. And a fellow jaw clencher provided this cautionary tale: “6 weeks after my first son was born I was at the dentist because I started clenching my jaw at night so much that I broke two teeth. Not fillings. Teeth.”
Some of the women who responded said that they couldn’t find the child care or brain space to schedule their own dental appointments, and some didn’t have the money to pay for the treatments they knew they needed. But some kept up with their checkups, brushing, and flossing—and yet their oral health still took a nosedive.
It seems that when women become mothers, many of them pay for it with their teeth…