The Applicability of Dental Wear in Age Estimation for a Modern American Population

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ANOVA, dental age estimation, dental attrition, dental wear scoring

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Objectives: Though applied in bioarchaeology, dental wear is an underexplored age indicator in the biological anthropology of contemporary populations, although research has been conducted on dental attrition in forensic contexts (Kim et al., 2000, Journal of Forensic Sciences, 45, 303; Prince et al., 2008, Journal of Forensic Sciences, 53, 588; Yun et al., 2007, Journal of Forensic Sciences, 52, 678). The purpose of this study is to apply and adapt existing techniques for age estimation based on dental wear to a modern American population, with the aim of producing accurate age range estimates for individuals from an industrialized context.

Materials and Methods: Methodologies following Yun and Prince were applied to a random sample from the University of New Mexico (n = 583) and Universidade de Coimbra (n = 50) cast and skeletal collections. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and linear regression analyses were conducted to examine the relationship between tooth wear scores and age.

Results: Application of both Yun et al. (2007) and Prince et al. (2008) methodologies resulted in inaccurate age estimates. Recalibrated sectioning points correctly classified individuals as over or under 50 years for 88% of the sample. Linear regression demonstrated 60% of age estimates fell within ±10 years of the actual age, and accuracy improved for individuals under 45 years, with 74% of predictions within ±10 years.

Discussion: This study demonstrates age estimation from dental wear is possible for modern populations, with comparable age intervals to other established methods. It provides a quantifiable method of seriation into “older” and “younger” adult categories, and provides more reliable age interval estimates than cranial sutures in instances where only the skull is available.

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American Journal of Physical Anthropology, v. 164, issue 4, p. 776-787