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Elements found in primary teeth correlate with autism spectrum disorder

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By Jennifer Garvin

Rockville, Md. — Primary teeth from children with autism spectrum disorders contain less of the essential nutrients zinc and manganese and more of the neurotoxin lead compared to those from children without ASD, according to a new study published June 1 in the journal Nature Communications. 

In the study, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden used tooth biomarkers to analyze primary teeth collected from 32 pairs of twins and 12 individual twins enrolled in the Roots of Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Twin Study in Sweden, according to a Mount Sinainews release.

“The differences in metal uptake between children with and without [ASD] were especially notable during the months just before and after the children were born,” according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study. 

NIEHS said the scientists determined this by “using lasers to map the growth rings in baby teeth generated during different developmental periods.”

 Baby teeth infographic

“We found significant divergences in metal uptake between ASD-affected children and their healthy siblings, but only during discrete developmental periods,” said Dr. Manish Arora, Ph.D., an environmental scientist and dentist at Mount Sinai. “Specifically, the siblings with ASD had higher uptake of the neurotoxin lead, and reduced uptake of the essential elements manganese and zinc, during late pregnancy and the first few months after birth, as evidenced through analysis of their baby teeth. Furthermore, metal levels at three months after birth were shown to be predictive of the severity of ASD eight to ten years later in life.” 

NIEHS said researchers also observed lower uptake of manganese in children with ASD, both before and after birth; children with ASD also had lower zinc levels earlier in the womb, but the levels then increased after birth, compared to children without ASD.

NIEHS noted that prior studies relating toxic metals and essential nutrients to autism have faced “key limitations, such as estimating exposure based on blood levels after autism diagnosis rather than before, or not being able to control for differences that could be due to genetic factors.”

“A lot of studies have compared current lead levels in kids that are already diagnosed,” said Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Genes, Environment and Health Branch. “Being able to measure something the children were exposed to long before diagnosis is a major advantage.”

The researchers noted that larger studies are needed to confirm the connection between metal exposure and uptake and ASD.

Summer Smiles!

Summer sun brings summer fun! While warm months are perfect for spending time together, summer vacation can also throw off your usual dental routine. Here are three ways to prevent summertime tooth decay:

STAY ON A ROUTINE

Whether your kids are staying up to catch fireflies or a fireworks show, resist the temptation to skip brushing before a late bedtime—or let it slide when they sleep in the next morning. “Don’t forget about your smile over the summer,” says ADA pediatric dentist Dr. Mary Hayes. “It’s important for families to consistently brush and floss, which keeps kids on track for healthy back-to-school dental visits.”

No matter how eventful the upcoming months become, supervise that they are brushing twice a day for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste. Simple things like brushing calendars can help everyone stay on track over the summer. Plus, it’s a chance to spend more time together. Brushing alongside your children for 2 minutes, twice a day for the three months of summer gives you 6 extra hours together, so make the most of them!

And don’t forget to clean between those teeth once a day. “Your children should be flossing between any two teeth that touch,” Dr. Hayes says. “However, many kids don’t have motor skills to floss until they are over 10 years old.” If your child needs help, try different types of interdental cleaners or put your hands over theirs to guide them and get the job done at the same time.

SAY NO TO SUGARY DRINKS AND SNACKS

As the temperature rises, it’s common for families to sip and snack during sports tournaments, festivals or nearly any community event. “Watch your family’s intake of lemonade, juice and soda,” says Dr. Hayes. “Consider sugary drinks treats to enjoy once in a while, and not often.” Instead, offer water (even better if it has fluoride) to beat the heat, or milk to drink with meals. And, don’t let summertime grazing damage your child’s smile. “Taking a break from snacking is healthy for your teeth,” says Dr. Hayes. “It allows time for saliva to bathe the teeth, wash away leftover food and get stronger.”

If you find yourself spending more time at home, snack smarter, and let your children tell you when they’re hungry instead of offering snacks throughout the day. “They’re not afraid to let you know when they want something to eat!” she says.

MAKE YOUR BACK-TO-SCHOOL DENTAL VISIT EARLY

Some schools require back-to-school dental visits for certain grades, and these checkups can be a good way to be sure your child’s teeth stayed healthy. It is a good idea to make your child’s back-to-school appointment early in the summer to avoid the August rush and help insure you get the appointment time that works best for you. “We can help spot and take care of any issues, so your child doesn’t have to miss class once school starts,” Dr. Hayes says. “Visiting the dentist regularly can help your child’s smile stay healthy all year long.”

6 Habits That Harm Your Teeth (And How to Break Them)

Nail Biting

The habit: This nervous habit can chip teeth and impact your jaw. “Placing your jaw for long periods of time in a protruding position can place pressure on it, which is associated with jaw dysfunction,” says Dr. Ruchi Sahota.

The solution: Bitter-tasting nail polishes, stress reduction and setting small, realistic goals can help. If certain situations are triggers, hold something to keep your fingers busy.

Brushing Too Hard

The habit: Brushing for two minutes twice a day is one of the best habits you can get into. Just make sure you’re not trying too hard. “Brushing with a hard toothbrush, or brushing too hard, can damage teeth and irritate gums,” says Dr. Matthew Messina.

The solution: Use a soft toothbrush with the ADA Seal of Acceptance at the proper pressure. “Don’t think ‘scrub.’  Think ‘massage,’” he says. “Save the hard toothbrush for cleaning the grout in the bathroom tile.”

Grinding and Clenching

The habit: “This can cause chipping or cracking of the teeth, as well as muscle tenderness or joint pain,” Dr. Messina says. “You might also feel like you can’t open your mouth wide or chew with pain.”

The solution: “Relaxation exercises and staying aware makes a difference,” he says. A nighttime mouthguard can also help. “You’ll have less tooth damage, less pain and muscle soreness and better sleep.”

Chewing Ice Cubes

The habit: “Tooth enamel is a crystal. Ice is a crystal. When you push two crystals against each other, one will break,” Dr. Messina says. “Most of the time it’s the ice, but sometimes the tooth or a filling will break.”

The solution: Drink chilled beverages without ice, or use a straw so you’re not tempted. “The risk of chewing ice is greater than any pleasure that comes from chewing it,” he says. “Besides, ice is really cold!”

Constant Snacking

The habit: Grazing all day, especially on sugary foods and drinks, puts you at a higher risk for cavities. When you eat, cavity-causing bacteria feast leftover food, producing an acid that attacks the outer shell of your teeth.

The solution: Eat balanced meals to feel fuller, longer. If you need a snack, make sure it’s low in fat and sugar. If you indulge in the occasional sugary treat, follow it with a big glass of water to wash away leftover food.

Using Your Teeth As Tools

The habit: Your teeth were made for eating, not to stand in as a pair of scissors or hold things when your hands are full. When you do this, you put yourself at a higher risk of cracking your teeth, injuring your jaw or accidentally swallowing something you shouldn’t.

The solution: Stop and find something or someone to give you a hand. Your mouth will thank you.

 

Happy Root Canal Awareness Week!

Hi everyone! May 7-13, 2017 marks this year’s Root Canal Awareness Week! This week is meant to help raise awareness that root canals can save teeth. This year’s theme helps you relate to endodontists by thinking of us as superheroes of saving teeth! The advanced training, specialized techniques, and superior technologies used by endodontists are what makes them the superheroes that can help to save teeth. Endodontists’ additional education and use of technologies like microscopes, digital and 3-D imaging, and ultrasonics ensure their patients receive the highest quality care.

The American Association of Endodontists has created a video to help you learn more:

Screenshot of YouTube video

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