Lamendin et al. (1) proposed a technique to estimate age at death for adults by analyzing single-rooted teeth. They expressed age as a function of two factors: translucency of the tooth root and periodontosis (gingival regression). In their study, they analyzed 306 singled rooted teeth that were extracted at autopsy from 208 individuals of known age at death, all of whom were considered as having a French ancestry. Their sample consisted of 135 males, 73 females, 198 whites, and 10 blacks. The sample ranged in age from 22 to 90 years of age. By using a simple formulae (A _ 0.18 _ P _ 0.42 _ T _ 25.53, where A _ Age in years, P _ Periodontosis height _ 100/root height, and T _ Transparency height _ 100/root height), Lamendin et al. were able to estimate age at death ith a mean error of _ 10 years on their working sample and _ 8.4 years on a forensic control sample.
Lamendin found this technique to work well with a French population, but did not test it outside of that sample area. This study tests the accuracy of this adult aging technique on a more diverse skeletal population, the Terry Collection housed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Our sample consists of 400 teeth from 94 black females, 72 white females, 98 black males, and 95 white males, ranging from 25 to 99 years. Lamendin's technique was applied to this sample to test its applicability to a population not of French origin. Providing results from a diverse skeletal population will aid in establishing the validity of this method to be used in forensic cases, its ideal purpose.
Our results suggest that Lamendin's method estimates age fairly accurately outside of the French sample yielding a mean error of 8.2 years, standard deviation 6.9 years, and standard error of the mean 0.34 years. In addition, when ancestry and sex are accounted for, the mean errors are reduced for each group (black females, white females, black males, and white males).
Lamendin et al. reported an inter-observer error of 9 _1.8 and 10 _ 2 years from two independent observers. Forty teeth were randomly remeasured from the Terry Collection in order to assess an intra-observer error. From this retest, an intra-observer error of 6.5 years was detected.