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Can Your Teeth Reveal More About Your Mental Health?

A study carried out by the University of Bristol looked at the connection between teeth formation and childhood adversity to help identify children at risk for depression and other mental health disorders later in life.

Researchers have found that the width of a line that forms on a child's tooth within the first year of life may indicate whether they were exposed to high levels of stress in the womb or early infancy. The neonatal line (NNL) is created when a baby's teeth are forming, and stressors like poor nutrition or disease can lead to the formation of thicker stress lines within teeth. The researchers hypothesized that the width of the NNL might indicate whether a child's mother experienced high levels of psychological stress during pregnancy or in the early period following birth. To test this, they analyzed 70 primary teeth collected from 70 children enrolled in the Children of the 90s study, and found that children whose mothers had a history of severe depression or anxiety during pregnancy were more likely to have thicker NNLs. Meanwhile, children of mothers who received significant social support shortly after pregnancy tended to have thinner NNLs. The researchers hope that these findings could lead to the development of a tool for identifying children who have been exposed to early-life adversity, which is a risk factor for psychological problems.

The senior author of the study, Erin C. Dunn believes that the NNL and other tooth growth marks could be used in the future to identify children who have been exposed to early life adversity, allowing them to be monitored and guided towards preventive treatments, if necessary.

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