Variation in elemental intensities among teeth and between pre- and postnatal regions of enamel



Microspatial analyses of the trace element composition of dental enamel are made possible using laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). Fine spatial resolution, multielement capabilities, and minimal sample destruction make this technique particularly well-suited for documenting the distribution of elements in sequentially calcifying layers of enamel. Because deciduous enamel forms from week 13 in utero up to 9 months postnatally (thereafter essentially becoming inert), the application of LA-ICP-MS allows for the retrospective measurement of prenatal and early postnatal trace-element uptake during a critical period of child development. In this study, we compared intra- and intertooth intensities of 25Mg, 57Fe, 66Zn, 68Zn, 88Sr, 138Ba, and 208Pb via LA-ICP-MS of 38 exfoliated deciduous incisors and canines donated by 36 participants in the Solís Valley Mexico Nutrition Collaborative Research Support Program (NCRSP). Pre- and postnatal comparisons within teeth showed significant increases (P < 0.001) and greater variation in the abundance of all isotopes in postnatal enamel, with the exception of a decrease in 25Mg (P < 0.001) and constant values for 88Sr (P = 0.681). Conversely, comparisons by tooth type and mouth quadrant revealed few significant differences between teeth of the same individual. We argue that more variation in the trace element composition of teeth occurs across developmental areas within a tooth than among different teeth of the same person. This study further demonstrates that sequentially calcifying areas of enamel have different chemical concentrations. The results support the use of microspatial analyses of enamel for understanding changes in nutrition, pollution, and residence. Am J Phys Anthropol., 2005 © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.