Master of Arts (M.A.)
Degree Granting Department
Erin H. Kimmerle, Ph.D.
Jonathan D. Bethard, Ph.D.
E Christian Wells, Ph.D.
cephalometrics, human evolution, growth and development
The frequency with which individuals do not develop their third molars, or wisdom teeth, is increasing worldwide. This current topic of human evolution is relevant to the research of anthropologists, geneticists, dentists, and other researchers involved in the study of human dentition. Many explanations have been offered to account for the prevalence of molar agenesis including, evolutionary, environmental, and genetic theories. The purpose of this research project is to determine the frequency of third molar agenesis and investigate the relationship between third molar agenesis and maxillomandibular jaw dimensions in a sample of orthodontic patients. This research tests the hypotheses that: H1: Individuals with agenesis of third molars will be significantly different in maxillomandibular dimensions than individuals without agenesis, H2: The agenesis of maxillary third molars is associated with the anteroposterior dimensions of the maxilla, and H3: The agenesis of mandibular third molars is not associated with the anteroposterior dimensions of the mandible. Therefore, the null hypothesis for this research is H0: An individual’s sex and the presence/absence of the third molar are independent. The sample for this research project includes 543 individuals from the University of New Mexico’s Maxwell Museum of Anthropology Orthodontics Case File System. This study examines panoramic radiographs of the dentition for each individual to ascertain whether any of the third molars was congenitally absent, and records the cephalometric measurements for each case for statistical analysis. This study uses descriptive statistics, crosstabulation analysis, chi-square tests, non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis tests, and logistic regression analysis to investigate any associations between third molar agenesis and maxillomandibular jaw dimensions.
The results show that Native Americans (9.2%), Hispanics (8.46%), and European Americans (8.37%) have a higher frequency of third molar agenesis than African Americans (0.17%) and Asians (0.17%). This finding is consistent with the published body of work on third molar agenesis, in spite of the small sample sizes for diverse populations. There is a significant difference in the number of molars missing among groups. For the present study, based on crosstabulation analysis, most individuals are missing two molars (34.9%), followed by one absent (31.7%), a lack of four molars (25.3%), and finally a lack of 3 molars (7.9%). Individuals with third molar agenesis are nearly twice as likely to be missing a molar from the mandible (62.8%) than the maxilla (36.9%).
This study uses crosstabulation analysis, chi-square analysis, non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis tests, and logistic regression analysis to assess the association between third molar agenesis and measurements of the dental arcade. This study did not find an association between an individual’s maxillomandibular dimensions and third molar agenesis. Therefore, this study did not find support for the hypothesis that individuals with third molar agenesis would have smaller maxillomandibular dimensions than individuals without agenesis. Based on the findings of this study, an association between the size of an individual’s mouth and third molar agenesis does not exist in the sample analyzed. Third molar agenesis is not occurring due to a lack of room in the mouth, but possibly results from heredity. Therefore, it may be more likely that genetic variation influences third molar agenesis, rather than an evolutionary change in diet.
Scholar Commons Citation
Williams, Devin N., "The Association of Size Variation in the Dental Arch to Third Molar Agenesis for a Modern Population" (2018). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.