A study to determine the accuracy of Gustafson’s method of age estimation on adult teeth when applied to a sample of the population of the Western Cape
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Teeth are often used to assist in the identification of human bodies after death, especially in cases where the body is badly burned or decomposed, as teeth are usually preserved for a long period of time, even after most of the other tissues of the body have decomposed. Age estimation can play a significant role in order to help narrow down the spectrum of possible identities, for example from the missing person’s database. Gustafson created a method of age estimation, using 6 age-related changes of teeth that occur after the eruption of the dentition. He then compiled a regression line from which the age of a tooth donor could be determined by examining attrition, change of the level of the periodontal attachment, secondary dentine deposition in the pulp, resorption of the root, apposition of cementum and translucency of the root. Gustafson’s method of age estimation was based on Europeans from Sweden. This age estimation method has been used on unidentified individuals at the Salt River and the Tygerberg medicolegal laboratories, but the accuracy is questionable as to whether the method is applicable to the population of the Western Cape. The aim and objectives of this study were to test the accuracy of Gustafson’s method on a sample of adults of known chronological age, to determine the degree of accuracy of the method and to evaluate the consistency of the method. Extracted mandibular central and lateral incisors and maxillary central incisors were used in this study. Two examiners independently used Gustafson’s method of age estimation to estimate the ages of the donors of the teeth. This method was found to be inaccurate when applied to a sample of the adult population of the Western Cape.