Authors – Sant'Anna LB, Tosello DO
Objectives – Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a collection of signs and symptoms seen in children exposed to alcohol in the prenatal period. It is characterized mainly by a distinct pattern of craniofacial malformations, physical and mental retardation. However, with the increased incidence of FAS, there is a great variation in the clinical features of FAS.
Design – Narrative review.
Results – This review describes data from clinical and experimental studies, and in vitro models. Experimental studies have shown that alcohol has a direct toxic effect on the ectodermal and mesodermal cells of the developing embryo, particularly in the cells destined to give rise to dentofacial structures (i.e. cranial neural crest cells). Other effects, such as, abnormal pattern of cranial and mandibular growth and altered odontogenesis are described in detail. The exact mechanism by which alcohol induces its teratogenic effects remains still unknown. The possible mechanisms are outlined here, with an emphasis on the developing face and tooth. Possible future research directions and treatment strategies are also discussed.
Conclusion – Early identification of children affected by prenatal alcohol exposure leads to interventions, services, and improved outcomes. FAS can be prevented with the elimination of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. We need to provide education, target high-risk groups, and make this issue a high priority in terms of public health.