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Use of zinc deposited in deciduous teeth as a retrospective measurement of dietary zinc exposure during early development

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Luisa WakelingORCiD, Professor Ruth Valentine



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Purpose: We proposed that zinc (Zn) deposition in deciduous teeth would be a timed record of exposure to this essential micronutrient over very early life. We tested this hypothesis by gathering information on the maternal and child’s diet during pregnancy and early infancy and measuring mineral deposition in the dentine at points during deciduous tooth development. Methods: We developed a short food frequency questionnaire (S-FFQ) to record consumption of food containing Zn during pregnancy and over the first year of life of the child in an Indonesian population. Zn, Sr and Ca were measured by laser ablation ICP-MS in a series of points across the developmental timeline in deciduous teeth extracted from 18 children undergoing the process as part of dental treatment whose mothers completed the SFFQ. Mothers and children were classified into either high Zn or low Zn groups according to calculated daily Zn intake. Results: The Zn/Sr ratio in dentine deposited over late pregnancy and 0-3 months post-partum was higher (p<0.001, 2-way ANOVA; p<0.05 by Holm-Sidak post hoc test) in the teeth of children of mothers classified as high Zn consumers (n=10) than in children of mothers classified as low Zn consumers (n=8). Conclusion: The S-FFQ was validated internally as adequately accurate to measure zinc intake retrospectively during pregnancy and post-partum (~7 years prior) by virtue of the correlation with measurements of zinc in deciduous teeth. The ratio of Zn/Sr in deciduous teeth appears to be a biomarker of exposure to zinc nutrition during early development and offers promise for use as a record of prior exposure along a timeline for research studies and, potentially, to identify individuals at heightened risk of detrimental impacts of poor early life zinc nutrition on health in later life and to implement preventative interventions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wahono NA, Wakeling LA, Dirks W, Banks DA, Shepherd TJ, Ford D, Valentine RA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Frontiers in Oral Health

Year: 2023

Volume: 4

Online publication date: 24/02/2023

Acceptance date: 06/02/2023

Date deposited: 01/03/2023

ISSN (electronic): 2673-4842

Publisher: Frontiers


DOI: 10.3389/froh.2023.1119086


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