Cementum annulation and age determination in Homo sapiens. I. Tooth variability and observer error

Douglas K. Charles, Keith Condon, James M. Cheverud, Jane E. Buikstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


In order to test the feasibility of cementum annulations to estimate age in humans, observer error and tooth variability in cementum ring counts were evaluated in a sample of 42 mandibular canine and first premolar pairs. Additionally, two sectioning techniques were evaluated. Demineralized thin sections (7 μm) stained with hematoxylin are the preferred technique since their age related variance is greater than 75% for all tooth types examined. In contrast, less than 50% of the total variance was accounted for among individuals when mineralized sections (80 μm) stained with alizarin red were used. Intertooth variability in ring counts of demineralized sections was large between canines and premolars (43%). Premolars provide counts with lower interobserver error and are the preferred tooth. In an expanded sample (N = 51) of demineralized premolars, intraobserver and interobserver error accounted for 2% and 5% of the total variance, respectively. Evaluation of several experimental designs showed that increasing the number of slides per tooth has the greatest effect on reducing variance followed by increasing the number of observers. Increasing the number of observations has little effect. Cementum ring counts are measurable to a highly repeatable extent and provide a level of repeatability greater than that reported for the pubic symphysis and auricular surface aging techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-320
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1986
Externally publishedYes


  • Age determination
  • Cementum annulation
  • Observer error
  • Tooth variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


Dive into the research topics of 'Cementum annulation and age determination in Homo sapiens. I. Tooth variability and observer error'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this