Using teeth as tools: Investigating the mother–infant dyad and developmental origins of health and disease hypothesis using vitamin D deficiency
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OBJECTIVES: With a growing interest in the mother-infant dyad and the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease hypothesis among biological and medical anthropologists, this study set out to provide all the information required to evaluate if mineralization defects in dentine might be caused by vitamin D deficiency in the critical first 1000 days of life. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Information was compiled on dentine formation in utero to approximately 18 years, and a method for determining the location of the neonatal line in dentine was devised, allowing the assessment of the prenatal and early life period. Re-evaluation of previously analyzed teeth (n = 61) was undertaken with detailed examination of n = 5/22 first permanent molars forming in the prenatal and critical early life periods. RESULTS: First permanent molars and all deciduous teeth give information on intrauterine development and on the first 1000 days postnatally providing a direct window on maternal and fetal health. Three archaeological individuals had interglobular dentine that formed prenatally suggesting that their mothers experienced vitamin D deficiency at the time dentine was forming and all other individuals had a deficiency during the first 1000 days of life. Conditions that could cause systemic mineralization defects were determined, and in each, case they were found to be consistent with vitamin D deficiency. DISCUSSION: The neonatal line serves as a clear baseline for determining prenatal and postnatal events, particularly those related to vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate metabolism, and can be used to investigate the maternal-infant dyad for both past and present communities.
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