Research on health disparities in modern populations has established that an individual’s socioeconomic status (SES) determines their participation in dental services, with lower SES groups exhibiting reduced engagement in such services. While this association between SES and health care is established for living populations, it is unknown whether this pattern is observable in a skeletal population. This study assesses whether this trend is evident in the dentition of 186 randomly selected donors in Bass Donated Skeletal Collection (WMB). Antemortem documents include self-reported childhood SES, which were scored on a scale of one (low income) to four (high income). Individuals were evaluated for dental work and dental pathology on a presence/absence basis. Analysis shows almost all individuals (92.6%) had dental work present, while just over half (60.6%) exhibited dental pathology. Cochran-Armitage tests indicate a significant relationship between the presence of dental pathology and SES (p < 0.01); specifically, higher SES groups exhibit a higher prevalence of dental pathology. Interestingly, no statistically significant relationship is observed between dental work and SES, nor between dental work and dental pathology (p > 0.01). These findings may indicate a limited relationship between SES and dental care in the WMB; alternatively, childhood SES may not reflect adult SES and therefore fails to predict engagement with dental care in this sample. This study highlights the difficulty of integrating self-reported antemortem data with skeletal evidence to infer social standing or health as biological anthropologists are often tasked to do.
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Blizzard, Lydia and Horbaly, Haley, "Dental Health and Self-Reported Childhood Socioeconomic Status in the William M. Bass Donated Skeletal Collection" (2022). Research Days Posters 2022. 101.