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    Dentists Collect Baby Teeth to Help Children at Risk for Radiation Exposure

    Oh baby teeth. They play such a huge role in our lives. 

    You don’t remember cutting your first tooth—but your parents probably do. You probably remember losing your first tooth.
    And your parents may remember quietly stowing it away, in the name of the Tooth Fairy, a tiny piece of their baby to hold onto…
    or perhaps to give away for research.

    Preserving Deciduous Teeth Network (PDTN) is asking parents in Japan to contribute children’s baby teeth to help study radiation exposure in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

    Back in the 1960s, it was shown that baby teeth could be used to monitor the level of exposure those children had had to radiation and strontium-90 (Sr-90), which is found in environments exposed to nuclear fallout and waste.

    In 2011, researchers did a case study of those same baby teeth and discovered the tooth donors who died of cancer by age 50 had more than twice the average Sr-90 levels of donors who were still alive at age 50.

    In 2015, experts in Japan developed PDTN to help protect the health of children following the Fukushima disaster, which leaked large amounts of radioactive material into the environment. Takemasa Fujino, a joint head of the network and president of a medical institution that operates three dental clinics in Tokyo, knew residents were feeling uneasy. So back in 2011, he began urging parents to preserve baby teeth when the time came.

    Fujino explains that collecting the teeth now is particularly important because baby teeth are formed in the womb, so children who are currently losing their teeth would have been fetuses at the time of the disaster.

    So far the agency has collected around 500 teeth and is working with testing facilities to analyze them. They can then use the results to determine the health effects of the radiation and make recommendations to the government and citizens of Japan.

    Would you donate your child’s teeth in the name of science?