Dental age is an independent marker of biological age
Background: Biological age markers are a crucial indicator whether children are decelerated in growth tempo. Skeletal maturation is the standard measure. Yet, it relies on exposing children to x-radiation. Dental eruption is a potential, but highly debated, radiation free alternative.
Objectives: We assess the interrelationship between dental eruption and other maturational markers. We hypothesize that dental age correlates with body height and skeletal age. We further evaluate how the three different variables behave in cohorts from differing social backgrounds.
Sample and Method: Dental, skeletal and height data from the 1970s to 1990s from Guatemalan boys were converted into standard deviation scores, using external references for each measurement. The boys, aged between 7 and 12, derived from different social backgrounds (middle SES (N = 6529), low-middle SES (N = 736), low SES Ladino (N = 3653) and low SES Maya (N = 4587).
Results: Dental age shows only a weak correlation with skeletal age (0.18) and height (0.2). The distinction between cohorts differs according to each of the three measurements. All cohorts differ significantly in height. In skeletal maturation, the middle SES cohort is significantly advanced compared to all other cohorts. The periodically malnourished cohorts of low SES Mayas and Ladinos are significantly delayed in dental maturation compared to the well-nourished low-middle and middle class Ladino children.
Conclusion: Dental development is an independent system, that is regulated by different mechanisms than skeletal development and growth. Tooth eruption is sensitive to nutritional status, whereas skeletal age is more sensitive to socioeconomic background.
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