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Stress in Children Linked to Early Molar Teeth Eruption

Stress in Children Linked to Early Molar Teeth Eruption

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  • Early life stress, including lower-income families and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) undermine physical and mental health
  • Childhood stress is associated with earlier emergence of permanent molars
  • Exposure to childhood stress is also linked to earlier puberty, aging, and brain maturation

Tooth eruption pattern is a biomarker of aging that can predict the impact of childhood stress on the biological development path, revealed a new research.

Tooth Eruption Process

The first permanent teeth to erupt, the first molars at the age of 6 years are influenced by various factors, including physiological and genetic factors.


Though psychosocial stressors can alter tooth development resulting in caries and dental enamel defects, no studies to date have investigated whether adversity impacts the timing of molar eruption.

Study Findings

Neuroscientist Allyson Mackey and colleagues from Penn's School of Dental Medicine and the University of Missouri-Kansas Citypostulated molar teeth timing as a scalable, objective way of physical manifestation to indicate stress-induced early maturation in children.

"I've long been concerned that if kids grow up too fast, their brains will mature too fast and will lose plasticity at an earlier age. Then they'll go into school and have trouble learning at the same rate as their peers," says Mackey, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Penn.

Their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that children from lower-income backgrounds and those who go through greater adverse childhood experiences get their first permanent molars earlier.

Childhood stress speeds up maturation for early puberty. The children who hit puberty earlier - are at a greater risk for both physical and mental health problems in adulthood.

More than 100 children aged 4 to 7 participated in the brain development study, including structural and functional MRI scans which were used for watching molars breaking through the gum line using the scale ranges from 1 to 4.

Limitations of the study

As the study sample is taken from a smaller representative population, they replicated these findings into National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), indicating a connection between lower family income and earlier first molars.

The mechanisms underlying accelerated molar eruption remain unknown as the timing of tooth emergence is under partial genetic control and regulated by hormones sensitive to stress, including osteocalcin, thyroid hormones, sex hormones, and cortisol.

Despite these limitations, this study provides insight into the timing of molar eruption among children from lower-income families, but longitudinal research is necessary to evaluate downstream correlates of early molar eruption, including early puberty, early brain development, mental and physical health.

If molar eruption timing can identify children at risk for accelerated aging early in childhood, it may serve as a useful screening tool to direct early intervention resources to children who need them most.

Oral Care for Kids

  • Schedule a dental visit by the first tooth's eruption or the first birthday
  • Use toothpaste as soon as their first tooth erupts
  • Brush child's teeth twice daily and use a small, soft-bristled brush tailored for children
  • Prevent tooth decay by avoid sugary foods and drinks and not putting babies to sleep with bottles

References :
  1. Early life stress is associated with earlier emergence of permanent molars: Cassidy L. McDermott et al: PNAS 2021
  2. Dental care for babies - (https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/health-daily-care/dental-care/dental-care-babies)

Source: Medindia

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