Parents of young children, when the “Tooth Fairy” visits these days, one dollar, how much does a baby’s tooth go for? Five dollars? Well, baby teeth are invaluable to a team of researchers. Scientists are studying small pieces of enamel and dentin in hopes of unlocking information about early childhood stress.
Dunn and her team wanted to know if children’s teeth could leave clues to childhood stress.
“Similar to the way trees grow, our teeth do the same thing in terms of leaving these records of growth,” she explains.
Dunn and her team took donated teeth and cut them up to look at under a microscope. The images are magnified, so it’s easy to see lines and see changes in width and color.
“We’re trying to see evidence in baby teeth of these additional developmental markers that could be markers of early life experiences,” Dunn said.
One of the group’s studies is called STRONG().STories TIn the year Record ohf NFetus Grow). In the year They recruited pregnant women during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings to see if the mothers’ stress from the bombings was reflected in their children’s teeth. The goal is to eventually use teeth as a screening tool to determine whether children could use mental health support.
“If we can better identify children who have experienced these early life stressors, we can connect them to interventions more quickly,” Dunn said.
Dunn and her team are recruiting for several other studies on baby teeth and brain health. Participants will be sent a kit with instructions on how to pack and insert the teeth. More information is available on tour. www.teethforscience.com.
Contributors to this news report include Cindy McGrath, producer; Kirk Manson, videographer; Roque Correa, editor.