Assessing error in human dental measurements: a comparison of resin casts, plaster casts, and dental enamel

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Amelia Hubbard
Natasha Wilson
Giuseppe Vercellotti


Technical advances in 3D morphometrics and other forms of digital analysis allow for detailed measurements of dental metrics yet, consistently, dental anthropologists show a publishing preference for measurements using dental calipers. It is possible that this preference reflects the often complex field settings, wide global distribution of sample collections, or the simple fact that calipers are a relatively low maintenance and low cost technology. Similarly, in bioarchaeological studies, dental casts are often measured when field seasons or collections based trips do not allow ample time to measure the original teeth. As such, this study aimed to assess differences among measurements of plaster casts, resin casts, and dental enamel to determine if variables such as material softness could lead to measurement error. Results of a paired t-test demonstrate no statistically significant difference in dental measurements. Likewise, while plaster casts exhibited overall smaller mean (and individual) measurements than enamel and resin the differences (around 0.039 mm on average) are negligible. We, therefore, conclude that casts can be used in place of original teeth, where needed, and which material type is “best” can be determined by the researcher’s preferred medium.