Children Health

Baby Teeth Showed Autism Associated with Lead and Other Heavy Metals

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 1 in 68 children in the United Sates have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Researchers have shown that autism may be caused by a complex reaction between environmental factors and genetics. Separating these causative factors has been particularly challenging. A new study by Manish Arora, Ph.D., a dentist and environmental scientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, has shown a way to isolate genetics from environmental factors, using baby teeth of ASD children. This was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Previous studies that have investigated the relationship between toxic metals, essential nutrients, and the risk of having ASD; but these studies showed only metal concentrations in the blood stream after ASD has developed. Information as to the level of toxic metal before ASD was diagnosed was left to guesswork. This study reasoned that if pre-ASD toxic levels can be determined, then environmental exposure toxic metals may be statistically separated from genetic factors.

The method used in this new study, however, manages to bypass many of these limitations. By looking at naturally shed baby teeth, the researchers explain, they have access to information that goes as far back as a baby’s prenatal life. And by studying twins, Dr. Arora and colleagues were able to separate genetic influences from environmental ones.

To determine how much metal the babies’ bodies contained before and after birth, the researchers used lasers to analyze the growth rings on the dentine (root structure) of the baby teeth. Much like looking at the age of a tree by examining the rings on its trunk, scientists can determine the amount of lead in dentine layers during different stages of development of the tooth bud. By this means, the scientists were able to ascertain the level of exposure to lead at different stages of fetal development prior to birth.

Laser technology allowed the scientists to accurately extract specific layers of dentine, which is the substance that lies beneath the tooth enamel.

Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Genes, Environment, and Health Branch, explains the importance of using this scientific method for studying autism:

“We think autism begins very early, most likely in the womb, and research suggests that our environment can increase a child’s risk. But by the time children are diagnosed at age 3 or 4, it’s hard to go back and know what the moms were exposed to. With baby teeth, we can actually do that.”

To isolate genetic factors causing ASD, the scientists recruited 32 pairs of twins. The scientists were able to compare the twin that developed ASD to the twin that has not. The study showed that the difference between the ASD twin and the normal twin was only the level of lead in the blood stream. Hence the conclusion is that heavy metals, or the body’s ability to process them, may affect ASD and that children with ASD had much higher levels of lead throughout their development.

Finally, manganese and zinc were found to correlate with ASD as well. Children with ASD seemed to have less manganese and less zinc than children without, both pre- and postnatally.

Overall, the study suggests that either prenatal exposure to heavy metals, or the body’s ability to process them, may influence the chances of developing autism.

Dr. Arora called the method “a window into our fetal life.” More extensive studies based on using baby teeth to look through this window are recommended by Dr. Arora.

Dr. Arora‘s study represents one of the numerous ways dental science impacts medical research. Dentists are working side by side with physicians and scientists to generate solutions to health problems.

Children Health

Saliva Can Predict Diabetes

Certain proteins (biomarkers) in the saliva of children have been identified to be possible predictors of Type II diabetes in a study published online in Public Library of Science June, 2014.

Based on this study, it is anticipated that salivary testing can in the future displace other more invasive methods, such as blood tests. It is speculated that in the future, saliva collected during a dental visit can be used to help diagnose medical conditions in conjunction with your physician.

The present study was conducted by researchers from the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Mass. They evaluated metabolic differences in 774 11-year-old children who were underweight, of normal healthy weight, overweight or obese.

In this study four salivary biomarkers, including insulin and C-reactive protein, changed with increasing obesity. Other biomarkers can be identified in future studies that can be used to diagnose or prognosticate (predict) risk of disease, regardless of body weight.

The advantage of salivary testing is that it is non-invasive and can be easily used to screen large numbers of people, especially children. This sort of non-invasive testing is important in developing disease prevention programs focused on children.

Called Salivary Diagnostics, this kind of testing “could provide a more acceptable alternative, which could create a new paradigm for research in preventive health,” said Dr. Max Goodson, author and senior member of the staff at Department of Applied Oral Sciences at The Forsyth Institute.

More and more your dentist will be corroborating with your physician. Working together to bring you better dental health as well as system health. Seeing your dentist regularly has become even more important than ever.

Children Teeth

Tooth Decay Can Stunt Growth

A new study suggests that tooth decay may push back growth in children. The study appeared in the online version of Pediatrics journal and was conducted at University College London and King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital in Saudi Arabia.

The research team wanted to explore the relationship between oral health and growth after previous studies failed to show definitive evidence one way or the other. In this study, the researchers looked at the dental decay and the correlation between height and weight in Saudi Arabian children ages 6 through 8.

The oral health of the children was graded on the DMFT (Decayed, Missing and Filled Teeth) scale, which is a scale that determines the seriousness of decayed, missing and filled teeth.

The research team later analyzed the statistics and concluded that there was, in fact, a relationship between low height/weight and a greater number of cavities. Children with severe decay had a higher chance of being underweight and shorter when compared to their peers.

Even when confounding factors such as demographics and social values were taken into account, statistics showed there is a meaningful relationship between dental health and physical growth.

It may be that children may be eating the wrong things besides neglecting oral hygiene. It may be that with compromised teeth a child does not want to eat or eat the right kind of foods. It may be that infection, even if not acute and painful, can affect the health and growth of the child. Further studies hopefully will throw more light on this vital subject.

It certainly is a warning sign and reminder to parents to pay even more attention to their children’s dental health. We know poor dental health can impact one’s general health. Heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis are some examples of medical conditions associated with dental disease. Perhaps it’s not surprising the growth and development of a child is similarly compromised by dental neglect.

What is the take-home lesson for the New Year? Taking care of our children’s dental health will ensure normal growth and development.

Make sure they form the right habits and brush their teeth regularly. Educate our children as to the importance of having healthy, clean, bright teeth. Teach them to watch their sugar intake, to stay away from sodas as much as possible. Try Xylitol, a sugar free, decay-inhibiting gum. Take them to the dentist every six months. Above all, take care of our own teeth and gums and set a good example for our children. See the dentist every 6 months, at least.