Efficient but destructive: a test of the dental wash technique using secondary electron microscopy


The Boyadjian et al dental wash technique provides, in certain contexts, the only chance to analyze and quantify the use of plants by past populations and is therefore an important milestone for the reconstruction of paleodiet. With this paper we present recent investigations and results upon the influence of this method on teeth. A series of six teeth from a three thousand years old Brazilian shellmound (Jabuticabeira II) was examined before and after dental wash. The main focus was documenting the alteration of the surfaces and microstructures. The status of all teeth were documented using macrophotography, optical light microscopy, and atmospheric Secondary Electron Microscopy (aSEM) prior and after applying the dental wash technique. The comparison of pictures taken before and after dental wash showed the different degrees of variation and damage done to the teeth but, also, provided additional information about microstructures, which have not been visible before. Consequently we suggest that dental wash should only be carried out, if absolutely necessary, after dental pathology, dental morphology and microwear studies have been accomplished.

Journal of Archaeological Science
Matthias Kucera
Matthias Kucera
Vice Director, Senior Researcher