Modern urban areas have recently become increasingly polluted. Heavy metals are one group of industrial pollutants which have no biological functions and accumulate in various parts of human bodies. The principal hypothesis of this study was that the pollution of the environment by certain heavy metals, that is, lead, cadmium, nickel and mercury, caused long-lasting changes in teeth, through deposition in dental hard tissues. Therefore, the aim was to compare their concentration in saliva, dental calculus and teeth extracted from inhabitants of Pancevo and Belgrade belonging to 5 age groups. Cadmium and mercury could not be detected in saliva from both cities, while lead contents remained equal. Cadmium, nickel and mercury could not be detected in dental calculus, while lead was present in all groups from both cities significantly more in the older groups from Pancevo. The concentration of lead in extracted teeth in all groups from Pancevo was significantly (p<0.05) higher than in group I from Belgrade, while when other groups from Pancevo were compared to their counterparts from Belgrade the significance was even higher (p<0.001). The concentration of nickel in extracted teeth in group I from Belgrade was significantly higher than in group I from Pancevo, while in group IV from Pancevo it was significantly higher than in group IV from Belgrade. The concentration of mercury in extracted teeth in groups III, IV and V from Pancevo was significantly higher than in corresponding groups from Belgrade. The correlation for patients from Pancevo – the number of extracted teeth and lead concentration in extracted teeth is statistically significant. Heavy metals from our environment, particularly lead, accumulated in hard dental tissues. The concentration of lead increased rapidly in older patients from Pancevo and Belgrade, which means that the deposition of lead is age-dependent. One possible cause of tooth loss in patients from Pancevo could be long-term environmental exposure to lead.
Key words: Heavy-metal deposition, environmental lead, hard dental tissues, saliva.
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