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Baby Teeth can Indicate Mental Health Disorders

baby teeth enamel neonatal lines

Examining a young child’s baby teeth Neonatal lines.

Did you know that according to Anxiety Canada 20% of children struggle with anxiety?   Although a minor mental health and dental concern, it often goes unnoticed as these kids are often well behaved or are labeled with an attention deficit disorder.  Sadly, children are still not receiving the help they desperately need leading to depression, missed relationship or career opportunities, substance abuse, dental problems, and a decreased quality of life.

Well, a group of researchers from Harvard decided to put their foot down and conducted an experiment spanning over 30 years with a specified control group to bring awareness to how our approach to mental health needs to change!

Study Summary and Implications:

The brain health of children can be significantly Impacted by the psychosocial stressors of mothers during and after pregnancy nearly doubling mental health disorder risk.  A way to combat this is to increase social support options and characterize these maternal stressors to get a better understanding of the associations with pediatric mental health.

A recent study by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital showed that the thickness of growth marks in kids’ baby teeth can help Identify children that could likely be at risk for depression or other mental health disorders later on in life.

The objective of the study was to determine whether a growth mark in a baby’s tooth enamel is related to psychosocial factors with the hope that the findings would lead to the development of a tool for identifying children exposed to early-life adversity as this is a significant risk factor that leads to a psychological diagnosis.

The reason that this study was conducted was those maternal psychosocial stressors during the prenatal and perinatal periods can have long-term health implications for your kids.  Currently, there Isn’t an Inexpensive marking system to identify children who’ve been drastically impacted by this psychosocial stress.

The study consisted of 70 children between the ages of 5 to 7 where exfoliated teeth were collected over the course of 7 years.  The results were analyzed between January 2019 until August of 2021.  The prenatal and perinatal maternal psychosocial factors that were collected by mailed-in questionnaires completed during and after pregnancy were psychopathological history, stressful life events, social support, and neighborhood disadvantage.

Of the 7o children studied (48.7%) were male, (94%) of them were white, and (83.8%) were born full-term to (88.2%) of mothers of typical child-bearing age.  The children of mothers that self-reported severe lifetime depression, elevated anxiety, and depression or any psychiatric problem had wider neonatal lines in the kid’s canine teeth.  Conversely, the neonatal lines were narrower in children that were born to mothers who self-reported high levels of social support shortly after birth.  Finally, the differences weren’t even close, there was a 1.2 SD unit difference that persisted after adjusting for countless other risk factors.

Identifying Early Childhood Mental Health Concerns and how to promote It:

Early childhood mental health refers to children from birth to five years old.  If your children don’t even have their baby teeth yet there are other indicators of mental health concerns and It’s very crucial for parents to identify, manage and express their emotions in healthy ways.

For young kids mental health It’s mainly about doing the small things consistently like responding to their smiles or cries, comforting them when they’re upset or scared, and simply talking to them.  These habits help babies develop trusting relationships with their parents, allowing them to support their overall mental health.

Some great indicators of healthy and secure attachment relationships include if your child comes you when they need help, comfort, get hurt, that kids show affection, greets the caregiver, engage with you when their out playing, and are more comfortable with their caregivers than with strangers.

Some clear signs to watch out for include if your child has problems sleeping, eating, they over or under respond to things around them, or they seem very distant from you or other caregivers.  Some stressors for kids after birth can also Impact their mental health like a new baby or constantly changing homes can impact how your kids behave.

Some good tips for parents to increase attachment with their kids include making eye contact, singing, smiling, talking, laughing, providing basic needs, giving them a lot of attention, responding to their needs, and taking care of your own physical and mental health.  This last one is often overlooked but kids get stressed out when their parents who they often idolize as superheroes are struggling with physical or mental illnesses.

Get Help Early If your Kids are demonstrating poor attachment!

The last thing you want to do is let your kids struggle with mental health for many years when there are a lot of different options like parent education (fact sheers, video’s, child care professionals), parent training (Interactions between parent and child, coaching videos, child therapists, etc).  Another great option is home visits with mental health workers because they help families feel less alone navigating these issues and can help you create an action plan if your family is struggling with poor housing or low income.

There is only so much that parents can control.  Asking for help Isn’t an acknowledgment that you’re doing a bad job but rather you’re able to recognize that mental health illness cannot be definitively prevented.  In this case, recognizing that help is needed is a sign of strength.

Conclusion:

The neonatal line width is associated with maternal perinatal psychosocial factors.  If a mother has had extenuating life-long depression or other psychosocial factors or other trauma during their pregnancy, It can significantly impact their children’s likelihood of psychosocial condition’s later in life.

If you’d like to have your kids Neonatal lines assessed, contact our dental clinic in London Ontario through our online “Request An Appointment” form, email us at [email protected], or give us a call at (519)-474-0220 we’d love to meet you.

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