Dental health of elderly confederate veterans: Evidence from the Texas State Cemetery

Authors

  • Helen Danzeiser Wols,

    Corresponding author
    1. U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii 96853-5530
    • U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii, 310 Worchester Ave., Hickam Air Force Base, HI 96853-5530
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  • Joan E. Baker

    1. U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii 96853-5530
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Abstract

Analysis of the skeletal remains of 50 Confederate veterans provided a unique opportunity to explore the dental health of a geriatric sample. These men, who died between 1907–1932, had an average age at death of 76.7 years. Ninety percent were institutionalized at the Confederate Home for Men (Austin, TX) prior to their deaths. This elderly sample was assessed in terms of caries, antemortem tooth loss (AMTL), abscesses, and linear enamel hypoplasias. On a per tooth basis, the AMTL rate was 57.2%. Of 39 dentate men, 33 (84.6%) had dental caries, and 24.4% (121 of 496) of teeth were carious. Ten (25.0%) of the dentate men had hypoplastic teeth. At least one abscess was seen in 14 (28%) of 50 individuals. Results from this geriatric institutionalized sample are compared to contemporaneous historical samples. Disparities in dental health among these groups may be due to differences in average age at death, and these comparisons allow a better understanding of dental changes that occur with age. The sample is also compared to modern elderly samples: modern groups have higher caries rates, possibly because they retained more teeth. This finding may be due in part to diets in the United States becoming increasingly cariogenic over time. In addition, dental care has moved from the reactive practices seen in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (such as tooth extractions) to modern proactive solutions dedicated to preserving and restoring teeth (such as tooth brushing, fluoride treatments, and dental fillings). Am J Phys Anthropol, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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