Validity and reliability of dental age estimation of teeth root translucency based on digital luminance determination

Frank Ramsthaler, Mattias Kettner, Marcel A Verhoff
International Journal of Legal Medicine 2014, 128 (1): 171-6
In forensic anthropological casework, estimating age-at-death is key to profiling unknown skeletal remains. The aim of this study was to examine the reliability of a new, simple, fast, and inexpensive digital odontological method for age-at-death estimation. The method is based on the original Lamendin method, which is a widely used technique in the repertoire of odontological aging methods in forensic anthropology. We examined 129 single root teeth employing a digital camera and imaging software for the measurement of the luminance of the teeth's translucent root zone. Variability in luminance detection was evaluated using statistical technical error of measurement analysis. The method revealed stable values largely unrelated to observer experience, whereas requisite formulas proved to be camera-specific and should therefore be generated for an individual recording setting based on samples of known chronological age. Multiple regression analysis showed a highly significant influence of the coefficients of the variables "arithmetic mean" and "standard deviation" of luminance for the regression formula. For the use of this primer multivariate equation for age-at-death estimation in casework, a standard error of the estimate of 6.51 years was calculated. Step-by-step reduction of the number of embedded variables to linear regression analysis employing the best contributor "arithmetic mean" of luminance yielded a regression equation with a standard error of 6.72 years (p < 0.001). The results of this study not only support the premise of root translucency as an age-related phenomenon, but also demonstrate that translucency reflects a number of other influencing factors in addition to age. This new digital measuring technique of the zone of dental root luminance can broaden the array of methods available for estimating chronological age, and furthermore facilitate measurement and age classification due to its low dependence on observer experience.

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