Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Environmental and Occupational Health

First Committee Member

Shawn Gerstenberger, Chair

Second Committee Member

Chad Cross

Third Committee Member

Timothy Bungum

Graduate Faculty Representative

Deborah Keil

Number of Pages



Childhood lead poisoning is a completely preventable condition, yet only a small portion of children in Nevada are screened for elevated blood lead levels. In 2009 only 6.11 percent of children in Nevada were screened for lead indicating that Nevada would benefit from an alternative method of screening for childhood lead exposure. Deciduous teeth are not currently recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as diagnostic samples for the measurement for lead exposure. However, this unique and innovative detection method utilizes opportunistic samples that will contribute to the childhood lead poisoning prevention efforts in Nevada.

The objectives of this study were to measure the lead concentrations of extracted deciduous teeth from children, identify demographic and environmental factors associated with increased tooth lead concentrations, and evaluate the effectiveness of measuring lead in teeth as a biomonitoring tool for at risk populations in Clark County, Nevada. Over the course of the study, 93 parents and legal guardians were approached at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine pediatric dental clinic to participate in the study. Seventy children (2 to 13 years old) were included in the study. In total, 147 whole teeth were collected from extractions performed by pediatric residents. Samples were analyzed by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry for lead (parts per million).

Tooth lead concentrations ranged from 0.1 parts per million (ppm) to 1.99 ppm lead, with an average mean (±standard deviation) lead concentration of 0.46±0.41 ppm. Hispanic children, children living in 1978 or pre-1978 housing, and children living in low income zip codes had higher tooth lead concentrations than other Clark County children. Results were consistent with identified at risk groups for childhood lead poisoning by the Southern Nevada Health District.

Several distinct advantages to using lead concentrations of deciduous teeth for screening include access to high risk groups at pediatric clinics, high participation percentage, on-site sample collection, and simple sample processing. Future research should focus on the standardization of methodology and address the lack of direct correlation between tooth lead concentrations and blood lead level, which is acceptable diagnostic test for childhood lead poisoning. Although the results of this study did not impact the number of children screened for childhood lead poisoning in Clark County Nevada, it did indirectly serve as a reminder to parents to have their child's blood lead level tested.


Childhood lead poisoning; Deciduous teeth; Lead; Lead exposure; Lead poisoning in children – Testing; Nevada – Clark County


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Public Health | Public Health Education and Promotion

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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