Tooth biomarkers in environmental health research

Christine Austin, Manish Arora

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Timing of exposure is a key component of exposure assessment as vulnerabilities and health risks vary with our external and internal environments over time. In particular, the perinatal and early childhood periods are critical time windows when individuals are especially susceptible to environmental exposures. Exposure assessments during this critical period are a major challenge due to a lack of tools that can directly measure exposures over the course of fetal life. Naturally shed baby teeth are one such tool that can overcome this challenge. Deciduous teeth commence mineralization prenatally and accumulate many biomarkers of environmental exposure during formation. Teeth form in an incremental pattern, with a new mineral layer formed each day, much like rings in a tree. Reconstruction of the perinatal and early childhood exposure histories, including timing and intensities of exposures, can be made by measuring chemicals across the tooth layers. Depending on the marker and technique used, temporal resolutions from weeks to months can be achieved. Biomarkers in teeth are a valuable resource that can be analyzed years after birth, a substantial aid to case-control studies of environmental exposures and health outcomes as exposure data is recorded prospectively but collected and analyzed after the health outcome is measured.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Environmental Health
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9780444639523
ISBN (Print)9780444639516
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Biomarker
  • Critical windows
  • Development
  • Diet
  • Exposure timing
  • Isotope ratio
  • Lead
  • Organic chemicals
  • Prenatal
  • Teeth


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