Exploring the utility of optical microscopy versus scanning electron microscopy for the quantification of dental microwear
is the new article co-authored by CIAS’ member John C. Willman and Raquel Hernando, Juan Luis Fernández-Marchena, Andreu Ollé, Josep Maria Vergès, and Marina Lozano.
The work was published by the journal Quaternary International (In Press) and is available HERE.
Dental microwear has been used for the reconstruction of diet for decades, and given its long history, substantial changes in the methodologies and technologies used to observe and quantify microwear have occurred. For instance, early work on microwear used optical microscopy (OM), before being largely replaced by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). More recently, SEM-based studies have been overshadowed by confocal microscopy and dental microwear texture analysis. However, SEM is still the preferred method of data acquisition for buccal microwear analysis and significant improvements in OM have also occurred in recent years – particularly with the development of continuous focus systems for OM. Given the low-cost and simple upkeep of OM compared to SEM, this study seeks to explore the utility of OM for buccal microwear data acquisition compared to the methods established using SEM. A sample of 18 human teeth (originals and casts) were analyzed using both OM and SEM. Results show that more striations are observed using OM than when analyzing the same surface with SEM. However, the central counting trend is similar with both techniques. We can therefore conclude that OM is a consistent and user-friendly method that provides good image resolution together with a series of economic and technical advantages.