The process used by anthropologists to assess skulls and teeth for asymmetrical bite may prove valuable to living populations as an indicator of environmental stress, according to a University of Washington (UW) School of Dentistry study. The primary marker used to identify early life stress is low birth weight, however, this measurement only serves as a marker until birth, rather than the desired 1000 days. The study, “Lower Face Asymmetry as a Marker for Developmental Instability,” published in the American Journal of Human Biology, reports an asymmetric bite may indicate early life stresses that occur after birth.
Using data from a 1966–1970 National Health Examination Survey of 6654 12- to 17-year-olds, researchers found that one in four had lower-facial asymmetries. According to corresponding author, Philippe Hujoel, PhD, DDS, MSD, MS, a professor of oral health sciences at the UW School of Dentistry, “Such lower-face asymmetries can be assessed by looking at the dental bite in the permanent teeth — an exam that can be completed in seconds and with more certainty than a mother’s recall of birth weight and more ease than a search for a birth certificate.”
Investigators note future research is needed to determine whether lower-facial asymmetries are predictive of chronic disease.
From Decisions in Dentistry. June 2017;3(6):10.