[Update: Eagle-eyed reader Paula M. noticed that a premolar text box was originally duplicated on the molar slide, throwing everything out of whack; this has been fixed on both the image file and pdf as of June 04, 2015. Please re-download!]
I took my first osteology class my second year of grad school. The evening before we were scheduled to have our preliminary tooth quiz, I found myself on a plane ride back from visiting family up north. I sat nursing a Coke Zero, furiously scouring White and Folkens Human Bone Manual and jotting down any scrap of information that would help me identify or side the enigmatic loose dentition I knew I would be confronted with the next morning. The middle-aged man sitting next to me watched me curiously for awhile, taking in my frazzled expression, stained clothing and messy hair, before finally biting the bullet. “I’m sorry to bother you,”, he said “but I just have to know. Are you a dental student?”.
While the impression that I gave off that evening was misleading, the disorganized sprawl of a dental cheat sheet that I produced is actually something I’ve used quite frequently in the years since. At this point, it’s covered with pencil sketches of the occlusal surfaces of molars, hastily crossed-out swathes of scribbled notes about tooth roots, and irregular splotches of highlighter. While I always have the Human Bone Manual on hand, there are times when I don’t want to flip through the twenty pages on teeth when I’m trying to figure out something specific, like the directionality of wear on lateral incisors. Laziness, a detailed knowledge of the lay-out of my hand-written cheat-sheet, and the fact that I often don’t have the lap or table space available to flip through a book, have combined to make the cheat-sheet an analytical crutch for me. However, for anyone else, trying to navigate its tortuous organization and impenetrable short-hand is a feat akin to trying to decipher the Voynich Manuscript.
For the sake of my sanity, I’ve reconfigured my cheat-sheet into four neatly organized pages. All of the tips and techniques are cribbed from the Human Bone Manual, often-times copied out exactly. The only difference between this and what’s in the HBM is in the organization. Instead of having to hunt through multiple pages to find what you’re looking for, this organization provides all of the information each specific tooth category on one page. So, if you’re a budding osteologist and just learning your way around human teeth, it’s a useful supplement to the Manual itself. Know you’ve got a canine, but can’t tell if it’s an upper or a lower? Forget whether the wear on lower molars slopes lingually or bucally? This cheat sheet provides an easy way to answer those questions, so long as you know what category of tooth (e.g. incisor, canine, premolar or molar) you’re working with.
Or, if you’d prefer a printable pdf, you can download the following :
Note: Because I’m working on an enormous amount of loose human dentition right now (today’s work brought the tooth count for this necropolis up to 794, 78% of which have been loose), I’m going to be starting a series of posts called Identifying Human Teeth, that go into more detail about the differences between specific types of tooth categories. But for now, I’ll leave you with the broad-scale cheat sheet.
White, T. D. and P.A. Folkens. (2005) The Human Bone Manual. Elsevier, Amsterdam.
Image Credits: All photographs were taken at the Museo de Jaén in summer 2014.