Calcium Shortage in Pregnancy

By G.E. King-Turner, L.D.D., R.F.P.S.

                Maternal mortality to-day is becoming a serious factor in childbirth. Many conditions may be cited as reasons for this, but one of the most important is calcium shortage in the expectant mother.

Most if not all members of the dental profession must be familiar with the patient who has been advised by her doctor to have her teeth attended to, as she is expecting a baby, and the extent of tooth destruction going on is appalling in most of these cases.

The extraction of septic teeth and the filling of carious cavities is the least important work of the dental surgeon, and yet how often is the most vital factor, namely, the reason for this wholesale damage to the teeth, overlooked or at any rate glossed over.

It must be evident to all that a woman whose ionized calcium is insufficient to prevent her teeth from decaying under normal circumstances cannot have sufficient to supply the needs of a child when she becomes pregnant.  It is this drain on an expectant mother that causes a host of symptoms during pregnancy and which, by the time that childbirth is at hand, may have very serious consequences.

Calcium is one of the vital elements concerned in metabolism and is constantly being withdrawn from the bones and teeth under certain circumstances, the chief of which is a condition of acidosis. It is not the acute phase of the latter that dental surgeons are concerned with so much as the chronic, where there is a slow but constant drain on the calcium reserve going on for a long time.

From the point of view of the dental profession, the most important result of a chronic acidosis—among many other conditions due to the same cause—is dental caries.

The body in an attempt to combat the upset in metabolism draws on its alkali reserve, and vital calcium is used up which is badly needed for other functions.

The teeth, owing to their peculiar surrounds (for example, an ever-changing pH value of the saliva), are the first structures to suffer; hence their importance as regards diagnosis of this condition of acidosis.

In the case of the expectant mother there is an abnormal drain on the calcium reserve which is not fully compensated, and a blood reaction is brought about which is ideal for the propagation of pathogenic organisms, particularly of the pyogenic variety. Hence puerperal sepis and other meanacing conditions are far more liable to occur in these calcium shortage cases.

When it is realized that this condition of chronic acidosis, as evidenced by the prevalency of dental caries to-day, is all too common, one sees at least one important factor in maternal mortality and, incidentally, in the poor condition of the teeth of the rising generation.

The Dental Magazine and Oral Topics.