Scientists are now looking to baby teeth to find clues to potential autism causes and triggers.
Researchers in Texas collected 21 molars lost by or extracted from young, healthy children. They then ground up the teeth, converted the powder into a liquid, and then made it into a gas, via a process called spectometry. Spectometry allows the gas to be examined in a way that can tell the scientists which compounds were inside the teeth that the children would have been exposed to in utero or otherwise during their formation. These substances include such things as pesticides, medicines, plastics, and other chemicals.
The process also allows researchers to check for essential fatty acids that have been found to be protective against damage from these toxins.
Raymond Palmer, a co-author of the study, stated that “Most scientists agree now — probably 99.9 percent — that environment and genes play a role in autism, but nobody knows what environment and what genes. So this is a big step in finding out what people have been exposed to during the critical periods of development.”
The next step in the study is to examine donated baby teeth of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) to see how their teeth compare to those without an ASD.
“If you’re looking at autism, you’d like to go back and look at when was the exposure: before birth, or in the early years when the autism might have developed,” said David Camann, a staff scientist at Southwest Research Institute and lead author of the study. “And there has been no way to do that, but we thought the teeth might be a way to accomplish it.”
As there is plenty of information available regarding exactly how and when baby teeth develop, both in utero and after, this study, currently referred to as “The Tooth Fairy Study,” may just prove to be the breakthrough researchers need in order to finally get to the root of autism.
–Dr. Shannon Norman-Kotre, Ann Arbor Dentist