Periodontal Health and the Lifecourse Approach in Bioarchaeology

Alexandra Tuggle, James T. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Healthy periodontal tissues are essential to maintaining attachment, stability, and retention of teeth. The concept of ‘health’ is problematic however and includes both physical and psycho-social characteristics. The challenge for bioarchaeologists is defining what physical expression begins to affect an individual’s well-being. Here we apply a lifecourse approach to periodontal tissue health in a prehistoric sample (N = 166) from the American Southwest to test the hypothesis that age and sex differences bear the greatest impact on the expression of periodontitis. Tooth loss, tooth wear, periodontal depth (CEJ-AC), and alveolar crest (AC) morphology were recorded at M1. T-tests identify that females exhibit significantly higher values across each variable. In addition, general linear modeling analyses demonstrate that values increased significantly across five age stages (15-20yo, 20-30yo, 30-40yo, 40-50yo, 50+yo) with females exhibiting significantly higher values in the fourth and fifth decades of life. Results support the hypothesis that periodontal tissue loss differentially affects females across the lifecourse. Bacterial infection, chronic gingivitis, and attachment loss cause the physical symptoms of periodontal disease but may not be accompanied by pain or altered functionality. The outcome of the disease process is tooth loss, which can affect functionality and quality of life. Periodontal ‘health’ is therefore best interpreted in bioarchaeological samples around the point that attachment loss results in tooth loss and altered functionality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-21
Number of pages10
JournalDental Anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 19 2019


  • dental anthropology
  • lifecourse
  • periodontal disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


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