Journal List > Anat Biol Anthropol > v.32(1) > 1127751

Jeon, Woo, and Pak: Review of Previous Studies on Dental Wear Method


Tooth wear records valuable information ranging from diets to cultural behaviors such as using teeth as a tool. However, methods analyzing tooth wear in archaeological skeletal remains have been designed and developed with subjective standards and processes. In addition, the definition of measuring range is different by each method and some have not specified it exactly. For this reason, there are limits to attempt a comparison between studies using different types of tooth wear methods even though data on tooth wear in ancient populations have been accumulated for many years. To solve this problem, it is needed to establish a method that can objectively diagnose tooth wear. This study aims to examine systematically a variety of tooth wear methods which have been developed from an anthropological point of view and to consider limitations of each method. A total of 20 research papers which describe a new dental wear method or advanced one were included in this review and then classified into two categories based on the properties of the measurement value, which means both qualitative and quantitative methods of dental wear. Qualitative wear methods were examined according to two subdivisions (① entire pattern on the occlusal surface, ② sum of quadrants on the occlusal surface). On the other hand, quantitative wear methods were divided into three classifications (① angle, ② height ③ area) and each category was reviewed. This approach enables to help understand the trend about methods for analyzing tooth wear, and would contribute to establishing an objective tooth wear method by more standardized criteria in the near future.


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Table 1.
Previous studies on qualitative method on tooth wear.
Subcategory Reference Scale Sample Subsistence strategy Tool Application
(1) Entire pattern on the occlusal surface Murphy [11] 8 Australian Aborigines HG Naked eye All teeth
Molnar [4] 8 North American Indians HG, A Naked eye All teeth
Smith [10] 8 American Indians, Europeans, Australians, Eskimo HG, A Naked eye All teeth
Miles [7] 8 Anglo-Saxon A Naked eye Molars
Brothwell [8] 10 Neolithic to Medieval British A Naked eye Molars
Lovejoy [9] 10 American Indians H Naked eye All teeth
(2) Sum of quadrants on the occlusal surface Smith [23] 5 Natufian, Israel A Naked eye Molars
Scott [12] 11 American Indians HG, H Naked eye Molars
Dreier [14] 26 Arikara, South Dakota A Naked eye, Metric ruler Molars

HG: hunter-gatherer; A: agriculturalist; H: horticulturalist

Table 2.
Previous studies on quantitative method on tooth wear.
Subcategory Reference Measuring range Sample Subsistence Strategy Tool Application
(1) Angle Butler [26] Slope of occlusal surface American Indians Unknown Plastic protractor First molars
Smith [10] American Indians HG, A Metal protractor All teeth
(2) Height Metha & Evans [27] CEJ∼ cusp tip Arkansas Indians HG Dental caliper All teeth
Mays et al. [30] Romano-British A Digital caliper Molars
Mays & Pett [31] Medieval England A Image J Deciduous molars
Tomenchuk & Mayhall [28] Central pit∼ cusp tip Igloolik, Hall Beach HG Sliding capler, Depth gauge Maxillary molars
Mayhall & Kageyama [33] Australian aborigines HG Moiré contourography Maxillary first molars
(3) Area Walker[34] Exposed dentine Santa Rosa Island, Santa Barbara HG Polar planimeter Maxillary first molars
Richards & Brown [35] Australian aborigines HG Digitizer Molars
Kambe et al. [36] Modern Japanese M Image Analyzer computer All teeth
Clement [1] Medieval England A Image analysis program All teeth

CEJ: cementoenamel junction

HG: hunter-gatherer; A: agriculturalist; M: modern

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