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Keywords:

  • paleopathology;
  • periodontitis;
  • epidemiology;
  • Coimbra

Abstract

Periodontal status was investigated in 600 adult dentitions belonging to the identified osteological collections curated at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. These collections date to a point temporally intermediate between the large epidemiological studies of the 20th century and archaeological collections that antedate the 19th century. The aim of this study is to compare periodontal data derived from contemporary samples with statistics compiled from epidemiological studies to determine if factors such as age-at-death, sex, and tooth type are essential or not to account for in future archaeological studies of periodontitis. Periodontal disease status was assessed based on the textural and architectural variations of the interdental septum and the extent of bone loss. Overall, the frequency of periodontitis within the Coimbra collections is 73.8%. Men were more susceptible to periodontal disease than women. Gingivitis was widespread in the younger age groups. Destructive periodontitis was observed early in adulthood, rising steadily with age. The most susceptible sites to periodontal breakdown were located in the posterior region of the upper jaw. Some variation in reported frequencies of periodontitis was found in epidemiological reports, which might result from variation in methods for identifying the pathology, differences in the age composition of the samples examined, variation in oral hygiene and/or diet, or some other factors. Regarding the pattern of distribution of periodontal disease, Coimbra results were similar to comparable modern epidemiological surveys, making clear the importance of considering sex, age, and oral distribution of periodontitis in future archaeological studies. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.