The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Root Dentine Translucency Aging in Burned Human Teeth: A Preliminary Study


1Department of Anthropology, New York University, 2Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University

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The use of root dentine translucency (RDT) for determining age at death in human remains is a widely used technique in forensic anthropology. While reported rates of accuracy differ depending on sample size and methodology, RDT has been found to accurately predict age at death within ± 5 years in modern sample populations. Despite this potential, its applicability to burned teeth remains untested. While forensic cases involving extreme heat-related degredation may be rare, RDT aging could provide an alternative when traditional aging methods are no longer suitable. Moreover, if proven accurate, the use of RDT on cremated remains could contribute significantly to bioarchaeology, as severely burned remains often go unstudied when traditional aging methods are not feasible. This study explored the preservation of RDT in extracted cadaver teeth (n = 30 canine antimere pairs) from individuals ranging in age from 54 to 98. Teeth were experimentally burned in a Paragon FireFly digital kiln at 50 degree increments from 300-800 °C and at 100 degree increments from 800-1200 °C. Results show that RDT is a visible, and potentially reliable, age indicator until partial calcination obscures the microstructure of the dentine. The visibility of RDT in the 1200 °C test group also indicates that RDT may become visible again if the remains reach a state of complete calcination. Further applications for use on cremated material in forensic and archaeological contexts are explored.

This research was funded in part by an Antonina S. Ranieri International Scholars Fund Grant from New York University.

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