• occlusion;
  • occlusal compass;
  • wear facets


Information about food ingestion and mastication behavior during the lifespan of an individual is encoded in the dental occlusal wear pattern. To decode this information, we describe a new method called occlusal fingerprint analysis (OFA). Structural parameters of wear facets on the occlusal surface of teeth are quantified from digitized casts for the interpretation of occlusal aspects. The OFA provides an individual three-dimensional dental occlusal compass that indicates the major pathways of interaction between antagonists, revealing information about development, spatial position, and enlargement of wear facets. Humans develop a very similar overall pattern of crown contacts, although specific characteristics of wear facets reflect an individual's occlusal relationships and masticatory behavior. We hypothesize that the wear pattern is a unique character and therefore valuable for individual identification. Furthermore we suggest that OFA, when further developed, may be useful for identification of behavioral, biological, and chemical factors affecting crown morphology. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.