Sexual dimorphism in modern human permanent teeth

Gary Schwartz, M. Christopher Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

96 Scopus citations

Abstract

On average, males possess larger tooth crowns than females in contemporary human populations, although the degree of dimorphism varies within different populations. In previous studies, different amounts of either enamel or dentine were implicated as the cause of this dimorphism. In this study, we attempt to determine the nature of sexual dimorphism in the crowns of permanent modern human teeth and to determine if two contrasting tooth types (permanent third molars and canines) show identical patterns of dimorphism in enamel and dentine distribution. We estimated the relative contributions of both enamel and dentine to total crown size, from buccolingual sections of teeth. Our sample consisted of a total of 144 mandibular permanent third molars and 25 permanent mandibular canines of known sex. We show that sexual dimorphism is likely due, in part, to the presence of relatively more dentine in the crowns of male teeth. However, whatever the underlying cause, dimorphism in both tooth root and tooth crown size should produce measurable dimorphism in tooth weight, though this has not been previously explored. Therefore, we provide some preliminary data that indicate the usefulness of wet tooth weight as a measure of sexual dimorphism. Both male permanent third molars and canines are significantly heavier than those of females. The weight dimorphism reported here for both classes of teeth may prove a useful finding for future forensic studies. In particular, weights of canines may be more useful as a means of sexing modern human skeletal material than linear or area measurements of teeth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-317
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Volume128
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2005

Keywords

  • Dentine
  • Dimorphism
  • Enamel thickness
  • Growth and development
  • Tooth weight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology

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