The effects of vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and infancy on dental health in early childhood

Associate Professor Cameron Grant
University of Auckland

What is the problem and who does it affect?

Oral disease is one of New Zealand’s most prevalent chronic diseases. Maori, Pacific and socioeconomically deprived children have disproportionately high levels of tooth decay.

Tooth development begins in the womb and children are at risk of cavities from infancy. Primary prevention that begins during pregnancy and early infancy needs to be developed to reduce disparities in oral health that exist in New Zealand.

Relative to other age groups, scientists’ knowledge of oral health in New Zealand pre-school aged children is limited. This study could potentially lead to new public health initiatives aimed at decreasing tooth decay in at-risk Kiwi kids.

 

What is the intervention hoping to achieve?

The aim of the study is to establish if vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy and infancy has a positive impact on the dental health of children from an ethnic or socioeconomic background that would normally place them at higher risk.

The researchers have previously conducted a study where pregnant mothers and their infants were supplemented with either placebo, or lower or higher doses of vitamin D during pregnancy and infancy. These children are now two and a half years old and the study will establish whether the vitamin D supplementation they received in early life has protected them from tooth decay. Each child will receive a dental examination, be analysed for cavity causing bacteria and a parent/caregiver will be interviewed about the child’s dietary habits.

There are currently no published clinical trials that have evaluated the effect of vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and infancy on the dental health of our children. Studies in the 1920s and 1940s reported a link between inadequate vitamin D intake during tooth development and tooth decay. This study offers the potential to confirm the importance of vitamin D supplementation for the prevention of tooth decay in the modern era.