Study Suggests Baby Teeth May Predict Autism

Autism doesn’t have one cause according to scientists. Researchers claim that several factors may impact a person’s risk of autism. A study that was recently performed on baby teeth shows that a person’s baby teeth may be a predictor of autism.

Icahn School of Medicine, located in New York City, aimed to determine how children metabolize metals. The study included 200 twins from Sweden and involved the examination of their baby teeth.

Researchers looked at tooth layers in the womb and found that a new layer of tooth would form every day the child was in the womb. Even through the early stages of childhood, a new layer of tooth continued to form.

Researchers claim that these layers are considered “growth rings” which contain a variety of metals and chemicals, including copper and zinc. The chemicals and metals found are naturally found circulating in a person’s body.

Lasers were used to take a sample of the layers and then reconstruct the past exposure to copper and zinc over a 10-day period. The process is similar to analyzing the rings of a tree to determine the tree’s growth.

Kids that had autism didn’t have zinc and copper cycles like kids without autism had. The levels of both zinc and copper are both naturally fluctuating, but kids with autism had irregular or much shorter cycles than kids without autism.

The results from the initial stage of the study led to researchers expanding their study to children in the United Kingdom and United States. What researchers found was that kids with autism, no matter what country they lived in, had different copper and zinc cycles in their teeth than kids without the condition.

Scientists took the experiment a step further creating a computer algorithm that was responsible for determining which teeth belonged to children with autism. The algorithm proved to be 90% accurate leading to the algorithm being very successful at determining which kids, based only on their teeth, had autism.

Previous studies analyzing the mineral deposits in baby teeth also found that children with autism had much higher lead deposits than children without autism. The finding is significant because high amounts of lead have been shown to cause behavioral and attention disorders.

Manganese and zinc level inconsistencies are also noted. The two minerals are an essential part of health and development in children.

Scientists do not know what causes the discrepancy in zinc and copper cycles in teeth. Scientists claim that additional tests would need to be performed to better determine why one child’s teeth have different zinc and copper cycles than another.

Gene, blood, biological processes and enzymes will all need to be studied and examined to uncover why a person with autism doesn’t produce the proper dental cycles. Researchers conducting the study want to expand the study in the future to try and find a link between metal metabolic cycles and ADHD.

Researchers conducting the study are still working to encourage parents to join studies relating to autism.

The baby teeth analysis is a quick and easy way to participate in studies without needing to be invasive.

General dentistry, could, in the future, perform an analysis of a child’s baby teeth to determine the child’s risk of having autism. “The importance of good oral care and hygiene cannot be understated, and countless studies are now proving the strong connection between dental health and overall wellbeing,” claims Naperville Dentists at Comfort Care Family Dental.

Early detection of autism gives doctors the ability to try and offer supplements or additional procedures to reduce the impact of autism on the child.

Studies still have a long way to go in determining the link between zinc and copper cycles, why they vary among children with autism and how, if possible, can the cycles be adjusted to help correct autism. Studies are also being conducted on why some children produce higher levels of lead in their teeth than others.

“One of the big challenges in autism is developing a biochemical assay for identifying early in life those who are at risk of autism spectrum disorder later in childhood. At present, the commonly used diagnostic tools are based on clinical assessments and observations, which cannot be used at birth,” writes Newsweek.

Doctors claim that the analysis, which is done after the tooth is lost by the algorithm, will not allow for a “truly early” diagnosis of autism. Autism is often evident before a child loses their first tooth.

Researchers hope that the study does lead to additional studies that can help identify parental markers for the presence of autism.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.