Superficially it seems teeth help to just cut, chew and masticate food. They are the first to initiate the process of digestion. After them the food goes to oesophagus for further digestion.
They also give shape to our mouth. They see that the maxillary and mandibular jaws don’t collapse.
The teeth in support with our tongue help to pronounce words of speech better. Thus they have an important role in speech.
For an Anthropologist, teeth are an area of interest. They help to determine the age, race, composition and personal identification of a living being.
Age: Teeth guide as to the age of a person as they come and fall at a particular age.Teeth start erupting at the age of 7months and are complete at 2yrs of age.These are milk teeth. These start falling at the age of 6-7yrs with simultaneous eruption of permanent teeth. First incisors and and first molars erupt followed by lateral incisors at 7-8yrs of age. Canines erupt at 10-11yrs. First and second premolars at 10-12 yrs. Third molars at 17-25yrs.Thus by analysing the stage of eruption one can draw conclusions about the age. Attrition of teeth occurs in old age.
Race: Teeth have been used to identify the race of mummies and fossils found so far. Bascically there are three races. CAUCASID, NEGROID, MONGOLOID. Caucasoid people have rough and elongated facial structure. They have projecting chins. Negroid have a jaw called rocker jaw. This is a distinctive feature as the bone between the nose and upper teeth is projecting. They have strong ivory white teeth which are large and are in good alignment.There is prognathism and the hard palate is less curved.Mongoloids are Asians native Americans. Their distinctive feature is their shovel shaped incisor teeth.
Composition: The basic composition of any teeth are calcium,phosphorus,oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and trace elements. Study of these trace elements gives us valuable information. They give an insight to the history of a person. It has been studied that Strontium which is found in soil, is found to be more in herbivores. Omnivores have intermediate levels of this isotope. Similarly oxygen isotope absorbed from water will vary among people in tropical rain forest in south America to those from rain water in arctic. Romans have been known to have lead poisoning. Their wealthy class had this more as they used wine vessals and cooking utensils. Thus teeth help in class distinction.
Identification Purposes: Just like our fingerprints, our teeth are unique.They last longer than our body also. This gives a valuable information to solve criminal cases where the body is mutilated for finger prints.In such cases xrays and dental records can be compared. Every person has distinctive teeth, irregularities, deformaties and anterior dental plates.
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