Researchers recently discovered that teeth keep an archive of the life of the individual to which they belong and can reveal information including illnesses, how many children someone has and even if they’ve moved across the country.
The study, conducted by New York University’s Department of Anthropology and College of Dentistry, discovered that the teeth are not static structures; instead, they are dynamic tissues recording life events.
The study results are compelling, as they provide new evidence of how life events, such as reproduction or imprisonment, affect the body.
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, focused on the tooth’s cementum, the part of the tooth that covers the roots. Cementum forms in layers annually — just like the rings of a tree.
The Scientific Reports study also tested the theory that physiological events such as reproduction, menopause and systemic illnesses can cause permanent changes in the structure of the cementum. It also means that these changes can be predicted, and treatments can be planned.
“The thought of the teeth recording the events of your life is very interesting and allows for the potential of planning of future treatments to keep them healthy,” said Dr. Darin Ward, a Dallas, Texas, orthodontist.
Researchers already knew that hormonal changes such as pregnancy could impact the teeth and oral health, but understanding how moves across the country or illness can affect the teeth can be valuable.
“If you knew that moving from the city to the suburbs could impact your oral health, you might make seeing the dentist a priority,” Ward said.
During the study, researchers analyzed 50 human teeth years taken from a skeletal collection of subjects aged 25 to 69 with known medical history and lifestyle data, including age, illnesses and movement patterns, such as moving from an urban to a rural setting.
Using imaging techniques, the researchers were able to illuminate the cementum bands of the teeth. They connected the bands to the different life stages of the subjects based on their medical history and lifestyle data.
“The ability to show how the teeth respond to change helps to refute the thought that teeth are a dead part of the skeleton,” Ward said.
Source: New York University. “Teeth serve as ‘archive of life,’ new research finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 March 2020.