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Late Baby Teeth May Mean More Visits to the Dentist

A child or young adult's need for orthodontic treatment might be genetically determined before his birth, according to a recent study.

Researchers in the United Kingdom and Finland studied primary tooth development in about 6,000 individuals to identify possible genetic variants associated with dental problems later in life.

The study was published in the journal PLoS Genetics.

Study participants' genetic codes were tracked from their mothers' early pregnancy until adulthood through two long — range studies — the 1966 Northern Finland Birth Cohort and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

Researchers identified five genes associated with the appearance of the first baby tooth as well as the number of teeth a child has at age one. They also found that those who had the gene associated with late tooth eruption had a 35 percent increased risk of needing orthodontic treatment by age 30.

The authors of the study note that abnormalities in tooth development are common, and missing teeth alone affect up to 10 percent of people.

"Such abnormalities contribute to a variety of challenging and expensive orthodontic, prosthetic and surgical treatments and account for approximately 6 percent of all dental health care [visits]," the authors said. "Further genome — wide association studies of developmental processes during infancy may establish whether the genetic determinants of infant development can contribute to the study of chronic diseases, such as cancer, that occur later in life."

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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