Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Lead Exposure May Increase Risk of Tooth Decay

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Lead Exposure May Increase Risk of Tooth Decay

Article excerpt

In children, adolescents, and adults alike, environmental lead exposure appears to increase the risk of cavities, according to findings published June 23, 1999, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers at the University of Rochester, working with colleagues from the Children's Hospital Medical Center of Cincinnati, have estimated that about 11 percent of the tooth decay seen in children may be due to moderate or high levels of lead exposure.

The team, led by Mark Moss, D.D.S., Ph.D., of the University of Rochester, combed through data collected on nearly 25,000 individuals, two years of age and older, who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988 to 1994. Even after adjusting for diet, dental care, and other social and demographic factors, the researchers found that an increased amount of lead in the blood meant an increased risk of tooth decay. The finding proved true both for baby teeth and for permanent teeth.

For each 5-microgram-per-deciliter increase in blood lead levels, the risk of tooth decay increased 80 percent.

"Lead is a systemic toxin that affects virtually every organ system, even at levels previously thought to be low," said Bruce Lamphear, M.D., MPH., associate professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital Medical Center. Lamphear collaborated on the research. …

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