Chapter 13. Advances in the Palaeopathology of Teeth and Jaws

  1. Ron Pinhasi PhD Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology member2 and
  2. Simon Mays PhD Human Skeletal Biologist Visiting Lecturer member Secretary3
  1. Alan Ogden dental surgeon Lecturer Associate Specialist Fellow Contract Osteologist postgraduate Curator Honorary Member

Published Online: 27 DEC 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470724187.ch13

Advances in Human Palaeopathology

Advances in Human Palaeopathology

How to Cite

Ogden, A. (2007) Advances in the Palaeopathology of Teeth and Jaws, in Advances in Human Palaeopathology (eds R. Pinhasi and S. Mays), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470724187.ch13

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Department of Archaeology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

  2. 3

    English Heritage Centre for Archaeology, Fort Cumberland, Eastney, Portsmouth PO4 9LD, UK

Author Information

  1. Biological Anthropology Research Centre, Department of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford BD7 1DP, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 27 DEC 2007
  2. Published Print: 14 DEC 2007

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470036020

Online ISBN: 9780470724187



  • dental;
  • enamel hypoplasia;
  • periodontal disease;
  • granuloma;
  • abscess;
  • cyst


Teeth, being the most highly mineralized body structures, are uniquely well-preserved remains relating to past individuals, their life history, the diseases they suffered from and the societies to which they belonged. This chapter reports on changes in our understanding of a few key aspects of dental palaeopathology. It suggests a new rare, but highly important category of enamel hypoplasia, cuspal enamel hypoplasia, where the cuspal pattern and enamel formation of permanent molars are severely disrupted in the early stages of tooth formation. It presents new and simple systems for the detection of periodontal disease, and for the categorization and understanding of voids in dental alveoli. It is suggested that unexpected patterns of tooth destruction by wear or caries might be explained by incomplete occlusal surfaces due to cuspal enamel hypoplasia, or be due to acid erosion from the diet or from gastric reflux. Suggestions are made for future lines of research, particularly on the relationship between periodontal disease and systemic conditions.

All too often archaeological teeth are only examined once in any detail. The ability to do more than simply record, e.g. by spotting unusual patterns of wear or disease, is essential if we are to make progress in our understanding of all that teeth can tell us about earlier peoples.