Three Amazing Dental Discoveries You Didn’t Hear About this Week

Baby Teeth Reveal Autism Risk Factors

Dental researchers have uncovered a new clue into the effects of environmental pollutants on autism risk by using shed baby teeth as a “time capsule” to look back at levels of different minerals during development. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which affect one out of every 68 people in the US, are speculated to caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. The study, conducted by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, analyzed the shed baby teeth of people with ASD and compared them against their neurotypical siblings. On average, the ASD group experienced higher deposition of lead, and reduced proportions of essential nutrients manganese and zinc compared to their neurotypical siblings. In fact, this statistical correlation was so strong that heavy metal concentrations over a certain level during late pregnancy and the first few months after birth were predictive of the severity of ASD eight to ten years later in the child’s life.

Crossbite Linked to Early Fetal Stress

Research has repeatedly found that the first 1000 days after conception strongly influence a person’s life expectancy and susceptibility to chronic diseases. Researchers studying early life stress at the University of Washington have identified a new marker of stresses after birth: an asymmetric lower face. According to one of the study authors, “Asymmetries in the skull and teeth have been used for decades by anthropologists to mark environmental stress, but they have only rarely been used in living populations.” The UW researchers were able to assess these asymmetries by examining a person’s bite as an adult, and draw correlations between their current health and early life history. For example, from 1966 to 1970, a time where smoking was still permitted indoors and leaded gasoline was in use, the National Health Examination Survey recorded lower face asymmetry in nearly 25 percent of the population. This generation would later go on to experience high levels of diabetes and obesity in adulthood, along with other chronic health problems. However, since the survey stopped recording these facial asymmetries in 1970, tracing the data to modern times is difficult. New studies are underway to further investigate this phenomenon in the 21st century.

History of Human Sun Exposure Found in Fossil Teeth

Your history of sun exposure isn’t just written on your skin – it’s in your teeth too, say researchers. Recently, anthropologists at McMaster university have validated a method to determine vitamin D levels over time by analyzing the dentin deposition patterns in your teeth. This discovery provides a brand-new method by which we can look into the past and examine the relationship of humanity with the sun; from our origins in Africa to the move to cloudy Northern regions, including the evolutionary adaptation of different skin tones.

Sources:
Manish Arora, Abraham Reichenberg, Charlotte Willfors, Christine Austin, Chris Gennings, Steve Berggren, Paul Lichtenstein, Henrik Anckarsäter, Kristiina Tammimies, Sven Bölte. Fetal and postnatal metal dysregulation in autism. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 15493 DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS15493

Megan B. Brickley, Lori D’Ortenzio, Bonnie Kahlon, Annabelle Schattmann, Isabelle Ribot, Emeline Raguin, Benoit Bertrand. Ancient Vitamin D Deficiency: Long-Term Trends. Current Anthropology, 2017; 000 DOI: 10.1086/691683

Philippe P. Hujoel, Erin E. Masterson, A-M Bollen. Lower face asymmetry as a marker for developmental instability. American Journal of Human Biology, 2017; e23005 DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.23005

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