Lower oxygen saturation was detected in the dental pulp of children with sickle cell disease (SCD), compared to children with sickle cell trait (SCT) and healthy children, according to a study published in the Journal of Blood Medicine.

On average, the mean oxygen saturation in children with SCD was found to be 77.5%, compared to 88.2% for both SCT and healthy children (P =.000 for both comparisons). The oxygen levels varied depending on which set of teeth were observed with the mean oxygenation of the lateral incisors being 75.19%, the central incisors at 76.86%, and canines at 80.35%.

“Our study shows that children with SCD register a low oxygen saturation from their primary teeth relative to those with SCT [and healthy children],” the study’s authors said.

“Although more studies are needed, the current findings show that the low oxygen saturation on teeth measured with a pulse oximeter may be indicative of SCD, thus a pulse oximeter may be a useful adjunct tool for screening conditions that affect oxygen delivery to the peripheral tissues such as SCD and for monitoring therapy that targets improvement in tissue oxygenation such as hydroxyurea in SCD,” the authors hypothesized. 

Read more about SCD testing

While differences were observed between dental oxygen saturations, no significant differences were observed in the oxygen saturations recorded at fingers between the 3 groups. The mean oxygen saturation recorded at the fingers was found to be above 97.2% regardless of sickle cell status.

No correlations were observed between finger oxygen saturations and teeth oxygen saturations. A weak positive correlation was observed between oxygen saturation and hemoglobin levels, however. (R2=.086).

A total of 558 primary maxillary anterior teeth from 93 children aged 30 to 60 months were included in the study. Teeth from SCD patients totaled 360 while SCT patients included 102 teeth and 96 teeth were from healthy control children.


Wilson EM, Minja IK, Machibya FM, et al. Oxygen saturation in primary teeth of individuals with sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait. J Blood Med. 2022;13:407-412. doi:10.2147/jbm.s365040