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Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

On the Dental Front in India: Mom’s Career, Junior’s Cavities

Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King

Progressives suppose that whenever and wherever women leave the home for paid employment, life improves for everyone. The latest evidence to the contrary comes from India, where public-health scholars at Karnatak Lingayat Education University and Narayana Dental College have just published a study implicating full-time maternal employment as a cause of poor dental health in children.

The Indian researchers do not lack for motivation to investigate the circumstances that foster dental caries (that is, cavities in the teeth) among children. After all, the “prevalence of dental caries is on the rise, in many developing countries,” with a recent national survey in India finding “a high prevalence (51.9%) of caries in primary dentition [“baby teeth”] of 5-year-old children.”

To determine what puts Indian children especially at risk of cavities in their teeth, the authors of the new study scrutinize data collected from 1,000 randomly selected school-going children ages three to twelve in the Nellore District of India’s Andhra Pradesh.

These data reveal “a significant correlation . . . between working status of the parents and dental caries status of their children.” More specifically, the researchers’ statistical analysis establishes that “children from families where both parents were employed had significantly (p = 0.0170) increased prevalence of caries in primary dentition and the odds ratio showed a higher risk for caries in permanent dentition [cavities in permanent teeth].”  

In other words, when Mom joins Dad in the out-of-home paid labor force, their children are more likely to develop cavities than if Mom stays home. What is more, this problem associated with maternal employment seems to get worse as children acquire the permanent teeth they will rely on into adulthood.  

No one needs to explain these findings to the Indian researchers, who remark that “the quality of time parents dedicate toward upbringing their child/children can . . . impact health and developmental outcomes. This is specifically relevant in developing good oral hygiene practices among children.” Putting a sharper point on their commentary, the researchers write, “In the contemporary scenario of both parents employed, there seems to be limited focus on the dietary habits and dental health of their children.”

Unfortunately, the researchers conclude their study calling for “efforts by government and nongovernmental organizations . . . to implement programs at the school level to enhance oral and dental health care among children.” Apparently, in India—as in the United States and Western Europe—political correctness pushes academics toward statist solutions of the problems caused by the decay of home-centered family life. Before children’s dental problems turn their smiles into checkerboards, families in India and elsewhere need to find ways to get Mom back home. 

(Niraj Gokhale and Sivakumar Nuvvula, “Influence of Socioeconomic and Working Status of the Parents on the Incidence of Their Children’s Dental Caries,” Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine 7.2 [2016]: 127-29.)