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Keywords:

  • Tooth wear;
  • Tooth use;
  • American Indians

Abstract

Form and severity of dental attrition was assessed in aboriginal human groups including hunter-gatherers (Eskimos, Australians) and those with dependence to a varying degree on food production (Southwest U.S. and Ohio American Indians). Wear on anterior teeth was both relatively and absolutely greater in the hunter-gatherers, as indicated by comparisons of wear on anterior and posterior teeth which come into occlusion at roughly the same time. Distinct differences in form of anterior wear were also apparent: The hunter-gatherers exhibited steadily increasing incidences of labially rounded wear with greater functional age, while the food-producing groups showed little or no rounding but instead high frequencies of heavily cupped wear (especially in those with premature loss of posterior teeth). These differences were attributed to nonmasticatory utilization of the front teeth in hunter-gatherers and to employment of the anterior teeth in masticatory (grinding) activities necessitated by large-scale molar loss in food producers.