This research considers the long-term relationship between women’s oral health and the transition to agriculture by examining dental caries and tooth loss in a prehistoric skeletal sample. Archaeological research indicates that women in many early agricultural communities experienced more severe dental pathology than male counterparts. Dentition was examined in an Early Agricultural skeletal sample from the La Playa site in Sonora, Mexico. Frequencies of caries and antemortem tooth loss (AMTL) were analyzed to test the hypothesis that in an early agricultural population undergoing major cultural changes, females experienced increased oral disease burden due to changes in the oral microenvironment resulting from greater reproductive stress. Adult females and males had similar caries rates, however, there were significant sex-differences in AMTL (p = 0.02). Comparisons across age groups indicate that La Playa women had substantial increases in AMTL, losing considerably more teeth than men. These findings, in light of dental research on oral health and pregnancy, provide an important temporal component to understanding the evolution and history of oral health and agriculture. The results suggest a dynamic process in the development of oral health trends as a function of the shift to agriculture and the burden of increased childbearing that females undertook during this transition.
Key words: Oral health, tooth loss, pregnancy, agriculture.
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