HOME arrow 4EVER FAMILY STORIES arrow Our Blog arrow Our Children's Teeth & Early Emotional Trauma
Monday, 18 January 2021
Our Children's Teeth & Early Emotional Trauma Print
The following message is reprinted by permission of Jean MacLeod, one of the authors with EMK Press and co-editor of the amazing book, Adoption Parenting. The EMK Press Yahoo Group, Adoption Parenting, where this originated, is a wonderful resource and well-worth joining.

I am re-posting a message here that I wrote to the Adoption Parenting list, along with an answer I received from dentist Greg Apsey. Dr. Apsey sees a fair number of international adoptees in his practice (especially from China), and is an adoptive dad himself. I was curious about the possibility of abandonment trauma impacting our post-institutional children's teeth; his thought-provoking answer is posted below my original email (with his permission):

My youngest daughter (adopted as an infant from China) recently had a dental check-up where her newly emerging six year molars were discovered to be already `rotting', for lack of a bunch of technical terms. She has no other cavities, sees a dentist regularly, and brushes daily with a fluoride toothpaste and an electric toothbrush. The dentist was understandably vague about the origins of the problems; he said it would have happened *about the time of her birth*, due possibly to high fever, or nutrition in-utero. It got me thinking of the possibilities that never come up in `normal' conversations with medical practitioners. . .

"The first molar erupts into the oral cavity when the child is about 6 years of age, hence it is also known as the six year old molar. The formation of the first molar is initiated 15 - 17 weeks in utero, begins calcification around that time of the birth of the child. Hence any peri-partum [peri-partum: "occurring during the last month of gestation or the first few months after delivery."] disturbances to the health of the baby or mother will result in some disturbance in the formation of the tooth. It may be hypoplastic or hypocalcified when it erupts years later."


--My daughter's baby teeth were perfect (indicating maternal nutrition was good from three weeks through eight months gestation, when primary teeth form).
--Permanent teeth begin calcification shortly before or at birth.
--My daughter may very well have experienced a high fever near her birth date (in her orphanage?) that affected her six yr old molars. BUT she also certainly experienced the trauma of abandonment and the loss of her birthmother in exactly the same timeframe. Nothing I can ever prove to cause dental caries (!), but the effects of trauma can be profound and can cause later physical and / or emotional ramifications. Why would this crucial timeframe for tooth development NOT be affected by trauma in some children, too?

I used to have a 'feeling' about my middle daughter's reaction in certain situations, and five years later (after a visit to her SWI) I found out I was right--there was an invisible 'reason' lurking in her previous life that influenced her behavior as a baby and toddler. So I no longer feel like a complete idiot for connecting these kinds of out-of-the-air threads for my kids. . .there's just so much we don't know!

Jean MacLeod

"This is not a strange question at all. In fact, enamel hypoplasia is definitely a result of a variety of traumatic events one may experience during enamel development. It has been proposed by some researchers as a valid marker for early psychological stress, nutritional stress, and environmental stress. When the body is stressed, the blood is diverted to the brain, muscles, and other areas of the body which need it more during the stressful event. Certain tissues like nails, hair, and teeth that are forming are less important. The fact is that the enamel, like rings on a tree once laid down (or not laid down) cannot be repaired and is therefore a perfect marker of stress during the early life of a child. Because the enamel on first molars is being formed around the time of birth, any stress at this time could result in imperfect enamel formation which could be anything from spots on the enamel to extreme deficiency and openings into the dentin which would make the tooth much more susceptible to dental caries.

Interesting thoughts you had, but right on target!"

Greg Apsey, DDS


Write Comment

Code:* Code

* Please fill in the verification code
in order to submit comment

Powered by AkoComment 2.0!

< Prev   Next >
Top! Top!