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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2017 Jun;163(2):242-251. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.23202. Epub 2017 Mar 16.

A test of a skeletal ageing method based on resorption of the alveolar crest following tooth loss using a skeletal population of documented age at death.

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Research Department, Historic England, Portsmouth, PO4 9LD, United Kingdom.



Resorption of the alveolar process occurs following tooth loss, and appears to continue for a prolonged period. Previous study (Mays, ) with a known-age collection of human remains suggested the potential of this phenomenon for age estimation in remains of adults who have lost one or more molar teeth. This article tests this ageing technique on another known age group, and attempts to evaluate the impact of some extraneous factors on the method.


The study group comprises adult skeletons (N = 110) of documented age at death from 18th to 19th century London. It examines the relationship between a previously described standardized measure of posterior corpus height (SPCH) in mandibles showing loss of one or more molars. The potential influence of a general tendency to form or lose bone (identified by the presence of ossification into the anterior longitudinal ligament of the spine and cortical thickness at the metacarpal) and (for females) parity are also investigated.


Negative age correlation was found for SPCH in females but not in males. In females, the age-association was weaker, and the rate of loss slower, than in a previously studied 19th century European population. None of the other factors investigated showed a relationship with SPCH.


As with other bony age indicators, the relationship between SPCH and age varies in different populations. Further work is needed to evaluate the extraneous factors that affect the relationship with age.


ante mortem tooth loss; mandibular corpus height; palaeodemography

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