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Alternative Dental Measurements: Proposals And Relationships With Other Measurements.

S. Hillson, C. Fitzgerald, H. Flinn
Published 2005 · Medicine, Biology

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Most archaeological and fossil teeth are heavily worn, and this greatly limits the usefulness of tooth crown diameter measurements, as they are usually defined at the widest points of the crown. There are alternatives, particularly measurements at the cervix of the tooth, where the crown joints the root, and measurements along a diagonal axis in molars, that are much less affected by wear. These would allow a wider range of specimens to be included, e.g., in the study of dental reduction in Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Homo sapiens. In addition, they would allow the little-worn teeth of children to be compared directly with well-worn teeth in adults. These alternatives, however, have been little used, and as yet there have not been any studies of the repeatability with which they can be measured, or of the extent to which they are related to the more usual crown diameters. The present study is based on a group of unworn teeth, where direct comparisons could be made between the alternative measurements, which are not much affected by wear, with the usual crown diameters, which are very much affected. In an interobserver-error study of this material, cervical and diagonal measurements could be recorded as reliably as the usual crown diameters. The buccolingual cervical measurement was strongly correlated with the normal bucclingual crown diameter in all teeth, whereas the mesiodistal cervical measurement was highly correlated with the normal mesiodistal crown diameter in incisors and canines, but less so in premolars and molars. The molar diagonal measurements showed high correlations with all other measurements. Crown areas (robustness index) calculated from the usual diameters were strongly correlated with crown areas calculated from cervical measurements, and crown areas calculated from molar diagonals were strongly correlated with both other areas. Despite the long usage of the more usual maximum crown diameters, the alternative dental measurements could be measured just as reliably, could record similar information about tooth crown size, and would be better measures for the worn dentitions seen in archaeological and fossil material.
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