The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Sex-related patterns of dentoalveolar abscesses in the genus Pan


Anthropology, Macalester College

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Dental abscesses may be used as an indicator of dental health in non-human primates. These lesions may result from traumatic injury to the dentition, high rates of attrition, or extensive crown destruction from carious lesions. Interestingly, abscesses seem to be more frequent among great apes than other primates, particularly associated with the canine (Schultz 1956). To date, few studies have explored differences between males and females for dental abscess formation among great apes. Potential factors that may be related to the occurrence of dental abscesses in great apes include canine size and rates of attrition, but little information exists for overall patterns of occurrence within species. The current study aims to clarify the picture of dental health for males and females of two species of chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus. Visual observations were made of mandibles and maxillae of 407 chimpanzees, 295 Pan troglodytes and 112 Pan paniscus, from collections at the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium and the Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington, UK. Abscess frequencies were calculated for adult males (P. troglodytes 28.1%, P. paniscus 33.3%), females (P. troglodytes 25.5%, P. paniscus 17.9%), and subadults (P. troglodytes 5.7%, P. paniscus 7.5%). The only significant difference in the frequency of occurrence was between adults and juveniles. This finding supports previous research of increased numbers of dental pathologies with increasing age. It also suggests that males and females are subjected to the same risk factors for dental abscesses, potentially ruling out some causal factors related to sexual dimorphism.

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