Introduction of agriculture and its effects on women's oral health

James T. Watson, Misty Fields, Debra L. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


This study explores the dynamic relationship between the introduction of agriculture and its effects on women's oral health by testing the hypothesis that female reproductive physiology contributes to an oral environment more susceptible to chronic oral disease and that, in a population undergoing the foraging to farming transition, females will exhibit a higher prevalence of oral pathology than males. This is tested by comparing the presence, location, and severity of caries lesions and antemortem tooth loss across groups of reproductive aged and postreproductive females (n = 71) against corresponding groups of males (n = 71) in an Early Agricultural period (1600 B.C.-A.D. 200) skeletal sample from northwest Mexico. Caries rates did not differ by sex across age groups in the sample; however, females were found to exhibit significantly more antemortem tooth loss than males (P > 0.01). Differences were initially minimal but increased by age cohort until postreproductive females experienced a considerable amount of tooth loss, during a life stage when the accumulation of bodily insults likely contributed to dental exfoliation. Higher caries rates in females are often cited as the result of gender differences and dietary disparities in agricultural communities. In an early farming community, with diets being relatively equal, women were found to experience similar caries expression but greater tooth loss. We believe this differential pattern of oral pathology provides new evidence in support of the interpretation that women's oral health is impacted by effects relating to reproductive biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-102
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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