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

Exploring the relationship between dental development, population variation, and environment


1Anthropology, University of Nevada, Reno, 2Anatomy, University of Pretoria, South Africa, 3Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno

March 29, 2019 , CC Room 24 Add to calendar

Dental development is consistently stated to be under stronger genetic control and less influenced by the environment than skeletal development. However, researchers have been recognizing population variation in dental formation for years, suggesting there is plasticity in development. The current study attempts to quantify the influence of geographic origin, socioeconomic status, and population on dental development.

Dental development was scored on modern children aged birth to 15 years of known age and sex from Colombia (n=57), France (n=240), the United States (n=880), and South Africa (n=500). Each country is characterized by the Human Development Index (HDI) and the Gini coefficient, which capture country-level differences in overall well-being, education, and economic productivity and wealth equality levels, respectively. An ANOVA was conducted to evaluate population differences in each tooth within each life history stage. The indicators, country-specific economic parameters, and social race were implemented in hierarchical linear models (HLMs) to quantify the impact of each on dental development.

Significant population differences existed in dental development among the groups in all life history stages. In HLMs, the populations displayed the same slope but significantly different intercepts. The HDI, Gini coefficient, and social race all contributed to the models but were not significant in the models. Results suggest that greater explorations need to be made into proximate and ultimate factors influencing dental development so that anthropologists can better understand worldwide variability, as this has great impacts in society, particularly when identification is involved.

This project was funded as part of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ 2017-DN-BX-0144) and the National Science Foundation (NSF BCS-1551913)