Stress levels are reflected in teeth
WASHINGTON, U.S.: Emerging evidence suggests that exfoliated teeth may be a promising biomarker for modern medicine. They are one of the few tissues in the body that permanently record the history of environmental insults. At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, researchers showed what teeth can reveal about stress levels of patients.
The most important finding was that it can be observed in children’s teeth whether they were exposed to high stress factors at an early age. According to Dr. W. Thomas Boyce, Professor of Pediatrics and Pediatric Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who presented at the AAAS meeting, the individual layers that build up the tooth enamel are thinner and less dense if exposed to stress, which “increases the vulnerability to dental cavities,” he explained to Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle. These changes can be measured by examining a primary tooth in a 3-D model based on a radiograph.
Stress does not just come from excessive demands at school but also, for example, from problems with parental relationships, constant noise or even physical and/or mental abuse. The bodies of those who experience a great deal of stress produce a lot of the stress hormone cortisol. Its concentration can be measured in the blood and saliva, said Boyce.
“But, of course, what we really want and what we are really after and what these snapshots fail to show is total cortisol exposure,” added Boyce. Therefore, examining the actual teeth can reveal exactly this, as the stress hormone influences their development.
The presentation, titled “Social disparities in child oral health: Interactions between stress and pathogens,” was presented on Feb. 15, 2019, in a scientific session at the Annual Meeting of the AAAS.