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Your Teeth Are Like A Fingerprint

by Vincent Jennings

Your teeth are gossiping about you. Their stories go back to your infancy. All teeth grow an outer layer of enamel as they erupt from the gum. The enamel seals in lead isotopes you were exposed to in your childhood environment. Tooth brushing and flossing does not remove lead isotopes. They are like a fingerprint and stay with you for life.

The tooth fingerprint begins shortly after birth and continues through adolescence. Infant enamel finishes sealing in the first layer of lead isotopes before three years of age. The second set of enamel forms from age 3 to age 5 and this traps in another layer of lead isotopes. Your older childhood enamel starts documenting your surroundings from age 8 until the final molars are completely erupted.

The minimal or intense layering of lead isotopes on your teeth lets researchers know where you lived as a child, and even if you lived in different parts of the world during that time. Teeth from people in the United States are different from those living in South America, Asia, or Europe. Part of this is due to the composition of our soil and pollution in the air. American soils and the lower atmosphere contain a high level of ores from extensive mining operations.

Ore's chemical composition includes lead isotopes, which occur naturally in the environment. They exist in the dirt that you played in as a kid. The level of lead varies throughout the world due to differences in soil composition, abundance or lack of rocks, living in an area that has mining, and exposure to different types of ore. People raised in undeveloped countries generally have very low levels of lead isotopes on their teeth.

If you were raised in the United States, the amount of lead in your teeth reveals the era in which you lived. People born during the 20th century have significantly higher levels of lead isotopes than their ancestors. It derives from exposure to leaded gasoline, lead paint, and modern mining methods. Mining machinery puts tons of soil in the air. Lead isotopes are light enough to travel in the air so you ingest them every day.

This dental knowledge helps in several ways beyond genealogy. Police departments are using this technique to solve cases that were previously delegated to the dead file. They are examining the teeth of unidentified bodies to place them in a childhood location. It gives them a starting place to look for old school photos or perhaps old acquaintances that might recognize the individual. Talk to your dentist, such as Tracy Dawes Professional Corp, for more information.