Most analyses of dental enamel hypoplasia compare frequencies of disturbed tooth types, which do not account for variability in the area of affected enamel. An alternate methodology, hypoplastic area, is presented here that accounts for this variability by combining acute and continuous enamel hypoplasia into an interval-level variable. The method compares samples based on individuals, by multiple tooth type variables, or by a single value rather than by tooth types. Use of the hypoplastic area method is illustrated by analyzing human skeletal dentitions in three archaeological samples: Meroitic Nubians from Semna South, Sudan; Anasazi from Navajo Reservoir, New Mexico; and Mogollon from Grasshopper Pueblo, Arizona. Both univariate and multivariate statistical tests are employed to assess variation in defects between individuals and samples. By incorporating measurements of continuous defects, the hypoplastic area method provides information beyond that of frequency data in comparing levels of stress. Flexibility of the method is also discussed. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.