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There is little consistency in the notation and orientation terminology used in discussions of non-mammalian fossil vertebrate dentitions. The standardization of this terminology, as done in the medical and dental sciences, would facilitate all future research on fossil teeth. For mammals, we recommend following convention, where incisors, canines, premolars, and molars are abbreviated as In, Cn, Pn, and Mn (n = tooth number) in upper jaws and as in, cn, pn, and mn in lower jaws. Right, left, and deciduous teeth are indicated by R, L, and D (e.g., DP4, Rp2). For non-mammals, which can have dentigerous premaxillae, maxillae, and dentaries, as well as additional tooth-bearing bones (e.g., vomers, palatines, pterygoids, ectopterygoids, sphenoids, splenials, and even parasphenoids), we encourage identifying teeth using the bone abbreviation (e.g., pmn, mxn, dn, vn, paln). A number and slash (/) combination can be used to distinguish between multiple tooth rows (e.g., Pal1/n, Pal2/n), and specimen-specific maps can be created for very complicated dentitions. We suggest the use of the terms mesial and distal to designate tooth surfaces and directions facing toward and away from the mandibular symphysis. Labial is offered for those surfaces and directions facing the lips or cheeks and lingual for those facing the tongue. We offer the terms basal for the direction toward crown bases, apical for the direction toward crown tips, occlusal for views of the occlusal surfaces, and basal and root apical for views of crown bases and roots, respectively.
Date Posted: 19 December 2005
This document has been peer reviewed.