The 88th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2019)

Do teeth forming in different early life periods show differential discrepancy with known age?


1Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta, 2Department of Anthropology, Brandon University, 3Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University

March 28, 2019 , CC Room 24 Add to calendar

Although it has been established that teeth are more resilient to environmental influences than skeletal elements, their development can be adversely affected by an individual’s socioeconomic conditions. This study explores differential growth discrepancies in children from the Certosa collection, a 19th century skeletal assemblage representing impoverished Italian children. Length measurements of developing teeth (deciduous and permanent) were taken from juveniles of known age and sex (n=61). Discrepancies between age estimates based on developing tooth length and true chronological age were calculated, comparing the age prediction accuracy of earlier forming teeth with that of later forming teeth.

Results indicate that deciduous teeth produce more precise dental age estimates (absolute mean difference = 0.19), while discrepancies between chronological age and age based on developing permanent dentition are larger (absolute mean difference = 0.43). The difference between these discrepancies in age estimate is significant (p=0.013) and indicates that age based on permanent dentition is a worse predictor of chronological age than age based on deciduous dentition. This reflects increased variation of growth indicators with age and may indicate that the early life experiences of children shelter them from stress factors that can impact dental formation. Conversely, the increased discrepancy between dental age and chronological age observed in later developing dentition may be a result of the disadvantageous conditions experienced by older children. By exploring the cause behind these observed growth discrepancies, the potential to interpret sociocultural circumstances from teeth is greatly increased, as is the accuracy of age estimations based on tooth length.

Funding for this project was provided by SSHRC - Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada