Objectives: To study the natural aetiopathology of jaw atrophy after tooth loss, unaltered by prosthetic procedures, an historical population without modern dental treatment was examined.Methods: Based on the hypothesis that there are predictable changes in shape during jaw-atrophy, frequency and degree of atrophy as well as clinical aspects of bone quality and resorption were determined in the skeletal remains of 263 individuals. The potential association between age and frequency/severity of atrophy was analysed.Results: Atrophy in at least one jaw segment was present in 45.2% of the analysed jaw specimens. The residual ridge underwent a series of changes in shape and height following the pattern of resorption described for modern populations. The severity of these alterations was associated with the age of the individual and the region within the jaw. Atrophy was frequently related to structural degradation of the covering cortical layer.Conclusions: These findings prove that atrophy of the jaw evidently does occur, displaying similar patterns of resorption in a population without modern prosthetics, where the negative effect of ill-fitting dentures is excluded. The basic information about alterations of shape and the cortical layer covering the residual crest might help to provide a deeper insight into aetiopathological mechanisms of this common oral disease.
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