The 87th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2018)

Session 9. Reevaluating the Meaning of "Oral Health" in Bioarchaeology. Invited Poster Symposium. Chair: Marin A. Pilloud, J.P. Fancher Co-organizers: Fancer, J.P., Texas State University, San Marcos

April 12, 2018 , Hill Country D Add to calendar

In 2014, the American Dental Association House of Delegates adopted the following definition of oral health, “a functional, structural, aesthetic, physiologic and psychosocial state of well-being… essential to an individual’s general health and quality of life” (  This definition raises questions about how bioarchaeologists currently use the term, as it is not possible to understand the “psychosocial well-being” of past populations based only on physical records.  Traditionally, oral health in bioarchaeology has included analyses of dental caries, antemortem tooth loss, periodontal disease, calculus deposits, dental wear, and periapical lesions (or abscesses).  These research foci are in line with the World Health Organization definitions of dental disease, which include “dental cavities, periodontal (gum) disease, oral cancer, oral infectious diseases, trauma from injuries, and hereditary lesions” (  While these dental diseases may be relatively straightforward to diagnose in a clinical setting with a well-known patient history and clinical records, similar diagnoses in archaeological populations may be impossible to assess.  Further, bioarchaeologists may make assumptions about the etiology of these conditions, which may not be appropriate.

The goal of this symposium is to bring together scholars in the fields of bioarchaeology, dental anthropology, paleopathology, as well as dentists working in a clinical setting to reevaluate and redefine ‘oral health’; with a focus on exploring alternate terms that do not overreach the abilities of their conclusions.  Such terms could include dental disease, growth disruption, and pathological conditions of the oral cavity along with specific, supportable differential diagnoses based in the clinical literature.  Through a dialogue of dental pathological conditions we can arrive at a more nuanced understanding of ‘oral health’ that is firmly entrenched in biological reality and can be extended to archaeological populations.  The symposium will consist of definitions of terms and conditions as well as case studies from modern and ancient populations. 

Presentation of odd numbered posters
Presentation of even numbered posters
Discussant: Simon Hillson
1 Add to calendar Outlining a Definition of Oral Health within the Study of Human Skeletal Remains. Marin A. Pilloud, J.p. Fancher.
2 Add to calendar Overview of Dental Disease and Differential Diagnosis Based on Detectable Artifacts of Disease. James P. Fancher, DDS, MA, PhD.
3 Add to calendar Oral Health and the Eastern Agricultural Complex in the Kentucky Lake Reservoir, Tennessee. Maria O. Smith, Tracy K. Betsinger.
4 Add to calendar Periodontal health and the lifecourse approach in bioarchaeology. James T. Watson, Alexandra Tuggle.
5 Add to calendar Calculus and survivorship in medieval London: the association between dental disease and a demographic measure of general health. Samantha L. Yaussy, Sharon N. DeWitte.
6 Add to calendar A sub-continent of caries: Prevalence and severity in Early Holocene through recent Africans. Joel D. Irish, Fawn Carter.
7 Add to calendar Questioning Oral Health: Dental Caries and Survivorship in Late/Final Jomon Period Hunter-Gatherers from Eastern Coastal Honshu, Japan. Kayla Kubehl, Daniel Temple.
8 Add to calendar Defining and recording periodontal disease and gingivitis in archaeological assemblages: a perspective from ancient Sudan. Rebecca J. Whiting, Daniel Antoine, Simon Hillson.
9 Add to calendar The Medieval Mouth: Interpreting Oral Health in European Populations. Katie Zejdlik, Jonathan D. Bethard, Zsolt Nyárádi, Andre Gonciar.
10 Add to calendar Bioarchaeological and odontological perceptions of “oral health” in Mexican populations. Andrea Cucina, Elma M. Vega Lizama, Marco A. Ramirez Salomon.
11 Add to calendar Bruxism: Prevalent Pathology, Problematic Paleopathology. Allison J. Foley.
12 Add to calendar Defining good health in the Paleolithic: Oral disease and a very distant patient. Sarah A. Lacy.
13 Add to calendar Oral Health in the North Atlantic during Viking and Medieval Times: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. G. Richard Scott, Rose L. Perash, Laura Cirillo, Cortney N. Hulse, Cassie E. Skipper, Stephanie J. Cole, Michaela J. Schroeder, Chelsea Arce.