An improved method for measuring molar wear

Emma M. Lagan, Daniel E. Ehrlich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: Standard methods of recording occlusal dental wear are problematic in that they either do not allow for individual variation of wear or are not designed to allow for comparisons of wear patterns. In this article, we (a) present a novel method for recording and analyzing molar wear, and (b) evaluate this method in light of existing methods.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Eighty-two lower mandibular first molars from two regions (medieval Denmark, prehistoric Ohio Valley) were used to assess the method for replicability (intra and inter observer error) and accuracy (comparison to established methods of recording wear). Wear scores were recorded using the MolWear Android App (Beta) by both authors, and established methods of Smith and Scott by the first author. Intraobserver and interobserver error and comparison of the three methods were compared using Spearman's correlation coefficients.

RESULTS: The MolWear method presented high intraobserver (r = 0.985, p < 0.01) and interobserver (r = 0.978, p < 0.01) repeatability. Compared to other methods, the method was strongly correlated with Smith (r = 0.962, p < 0.01) and Smith (r = 0.891, p < 0.01).

DISCUSSION: The new MolWear method provides an improved way of measuring occlusal molar wear. This method bridges the gaps between established methods, performing comparatively while capturing more information about the distribution of wear in addition to the extent of wear. This method should be used for research comparing interpopulation or intrapopulation quantity of dental wear. While designed for a bioarchaeological population, this method could extend to any Y5 molar including nonhuman primates and hominins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)832-838
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Both authors would like to thank ADBOU, Cincinnati Museum Center, and Ohio History Center for access to dental collections; Sean Pesce for his development of the MolWear software; Mark Hubbe for his statistical advice; members of the Dental Anthropology Association for their encouragement; and most importantly the individuals whose teeth we studied, although we may not know who they are.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • Humans
  • Molar/pathology
  • Paleodontology/methods
  • Photography
  • Tooth Attrition/pathology

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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