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Believe it or Not: Your Teeth Tell Your Biological Story

added on: July 24, 2020
tree rings

Your biological and holistic family dentist in Wilmington has exciting news to share with you about your smile. Did you know that it actually acts as a “biological archive” of certain impacts on your health as you age? A recent report published by researchers in Scientific Reports shows that our teeth tell the tale of our entire lives from the early days in the womb when our teeth are formed to later in life as we continue to age with time.

How “Tree Rings” Are Involved

Paola Cerrito, a doctoral candidate in New York University’s department of anthropology and College of Dentistry, was the lead author of the paper. She says the final results, “make clear that the skeleton is not a static organ, but rather a dynamic one.” Cerrito and team focused on something known in the dental field as cementum — a dental tissue that surrounds your teeth’ roots. Much like how the rings of a tree give us an idea of its age and events it lived through, the cementum is doing the same thing. From the exact moment your tooth erupts from your gums, it’s forming annual layers. Evident in these layers, according to researchers, shows the impact of events such as childbirth, menopause, and being in prison. 

Revealing Research About Your Teeth

Only visible through a microscope, the cementum in your teeth forms a complex microstructure that can reveal your teeth’s complex makeup. Cerrito and her fellow scientists looked at 50 human teeth, ranging in ages from 25 to 69. Through medical history, talking with family members, and examining life changes (such as moving from the city to the country), they combined this information with a series of high-tech imaging. The cementum bands are highlighted, showing us the connections between different stages in our lives. Cerrito says our teeth don’t simply remain static throughout life; instead, they must continuously adjust to physiological and environmental stressors. 

“Just like tree rings, we can look at ‘tooth rings’: continuously growing layers of tissue on the dental root surface,” says Cerrito. “These rings are a faithful archive of an individual’s physiological experiences and stressors from pregnancies and illnesses to incarcerations and menopause that all leave a distinctive permanent mark.”

Your Wilmington biological and holistic family dentist thinks this is fascinating news. It shows that how you live your life and what occurs does impact our oral and overall health. If you would like to learn more about our team and biological and holistic family dentistry in Wilmington, please reach out to us to schedule an appointment. 


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