The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

Oral Pathological Conditions and Age Structure in Early Postcontact Guale, St. Catherines Island, Georgia


1Anthropology, The Ohio State University, 2Anthropology, University of Louisville

April 17, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Oral pathological conditions (carious lesions, periodontal disease, antemortem tooth loss, and abscesses) reflect the outcome of multifaceted etiological circumstances, including nutrition, physiological stress, age, sex, and general health status. In particular, carious lesions involve enamel demineralization of the tooth by bacterial acid byproducts, thereby increasing susceptibility of the pulp chamber to infection, abscess formation, and antemortem tooth loss (AMTL). Periodontal disease (PD) results from the permeation of gingival inflammation into surrounding alveolar bone. Documentation of oral conditions in individuals from the pre-Spanish mission, early 16th century Fallen Tree site, St. Catherines Island, Georgia, provides a record of oral health within the larger context of initial European contact and, consequently, the oral conditions influencing general health. We test the hypothesis that age-at-death correlates directly with presence of dental caries, PD, AMTL, and abscesses in adult individuals (n=56) from Fallen Tree. Results from binomial logistic regressions revealed a significant relationship between increased age and carious lesion presence by tooth (p≤0.05), although age and sex did not affect presence of PD, AMTL, or abscess by tooth/alveolus. These findings demonstrate the important role age-at-death factors into understanding oral health, especially in relation to dental caries presence in the Fallen Tree community. Regarding the lack of correlation with PD, we argue that the differential presence of periodontal disease reflects heterogeneous immune competence within the Fallen Tree population that is influenced by other factors than biological sex and age.

Funding support by the St. Catherines Island Foundation and the National Science Foundation.      

Slides/Poster (pdf)