The objective of this initiative by the Dental Anthropology Group and the Scientific Culture and Innovation Unit (UCC+i), which began in Burgos in 2014, is to continue expanding the CENIEH milk tooth collection to conduct paleoanthropological and forensic research.
In 2021, this citizen science initiative took place in seven Autonomous Regions: Asturias, Andalucía, Aragón, Baleares, Castilla y León, Galicia and Madrid, and the following institutions collaborated: the Escuela Universitaria ADEMA in Palma de Mallorca, the CSIC Office in Galicia, the Fábrica de Luz. Museo de la Energía in Ponferrada (León), the Universidad de Córdoba, the Universidad de Jaén, the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, the Universidad de Oviedo and the Huesca, Teruel and Zaragoza campuses of the Universidad de Zaragoza.
The majority of the pieces donated are incisors or canines because most of the donors are aged 6 to 10, when these dental pieces tend to fall out. “We miss teenagers in these campaigns, and more molars are needed because, from the evolutionary perspective, these pieces offer us more information”, comments Marina Martínez de Pinillos, coordinator of the Ratón Pérez Project.
In parallel with the campaign, educational workshops are given, both in-person and streamed online, so that the donors can learn about the research for which their teeth are used. “Thanks to these workshops, donors can see at first hand the large amount of information that can be gleaned from their teeth, while it also enables us to encourage healthy bucodental habits from childhood”, says Chitina Moreno-Torres, the head of the UCC+i at the CENIEH.
In 2022, collecting teeth will continue all over Spain, and it is hoped to extend the project to other countries. Institutions from Argentina, Australia and the Dominican Republic have already expressed interest. “This will let us continue expanding the geographical scope of the endeavour to reach more people and obtain a sample of milk teeth which is as varied and representative as possible”, states Martínez de Pinillos.