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

Sex differences in periodontal disease and caries in a Portuguese identified skeletal sample from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries


Centro de Investigação em Antropologia e Saúde, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Coimbra

Saturday Afternoon, Galleria South Add to calendar

Archaeological studies frequently fail to consider sex when reporting oral diseases in past populations. In those studies where this has been attempted, men were found to be more affected by periodontitis and less prone to caries than women. If this is so then, where both sexes are combined together, it is implicitly assumed that they have an equal chance of being recorded, in all assemblages studied. This is not the case for most archaeological collections, which often have fewer than expected female skeletons.

The aim of this study is to compare data derived from skeletal samples with statistics compiled from epidemiological studies to determine if sex is essential or not to account for in future archaeological studies.

Periodontal disease and caries were investigated in 600 individuals belonging to the identified skeletal collections of the University of Coimbra, Portugal.

Periodontal status was assessed based on the textural and architectural variations of the interdental septum and the extent of bone loss. Dental lesions were judged to be caries if there was a discernable white or brown spot in the enamel.

Men were more susceptible to periodontal disease than women. Not only did men have less healthy areas than women, but they also showed more sites with gingivitis and periodontitis.

Higher caries rates were observed in females than in males for upper teeth. No differences were found between the sexes for lower teeth.

Coimbra results were similar to comparable modern epidemiological surveys, making clear the importance of considering sex in future archaeological studies.

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