Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Anthropology

First Advisor

Lexi O'Donnell

Second Advisor

Carolyn Freiwald

Third Advisor

Lexi O'Donnell


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



Dental age estimation is a common method used to determine the age of juvenile individuals in forensics, medicine, and bio-archaeology. This thesis examines how accurate three dental development methods are in estimating the ages of two Native American sample groups. Further, it will explore how different variables like sex, age, secular (temporal) change, and an individual’s body mass index (BMI) affect dental development rates in the two groups of individuals. The first group consists of 60 Native Americans between the ages of 7 and 21 years of age who received dental work between 1970-1990 by Dr. James Economides of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The second group consists of 165 contemporary New Mexico Native Americans who died between the ages of 0.6 months to 20.9 years of age between 2011-2019. This thesis examines the radiographs and postmortem computed tomography (PMCT) scans to determine tooth maturity and estimate the individuals’ ages using the London Dental Atlas (2011), Ubelaker’s dental charts (1989), and the Moorrees et al. dental charts (1963). Average group real ages were calculated, along with the average group age estimates to determine a mean age difference, referred to as the Delta Age.

The results reveal that the London Dental Atlas (AlQahtani et al., 2010), was the most accurate method, with an average Delta Age of around +0.50 years for both sample groups. Ubelaker’s dental charts had an average Delta Age of around -0.67 years, and the Moorrees et al. charts were the least accurate with Delta Ages of -2.92 and -3.01 for each group respectively. There was some evidence to suggest that between the ages of 7-16, females age estimates are consistently overestimated, indicating they are more dentally mature than their male counterparts until age 17, at which point the third molar is the last tooth developing in the dentition and males are more dentally advanced. The were no obvious changes in tooth variation between the sample groups and the London Dental Atlas and there was little evidence to suggest that factors such as obesity, measured through an individual’s BMI, and secular change, have a significant effect on dental development for the sample groups in this study. Overall, it seems that the main reason for the difference between an individual’s real age versus their estimated age is dependent upon the dental development method utilized and the natural variation in an individual’s dental development.


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