Preparing Specimens: Teeth and Calcified Tissue

Preparing Specimens: Teeth and Calcified Tissue

Please consult the following guidelines before collecting and storing specimens to ensure that your teeth arrive at the lab in the best possible condition. For your convenience, click here to download an optional order form and include it along with your cover letter for the sample you are sending to our lab.

Visit our shipping page for information about packaging and scheduling for lab analysis.

Extracting the Teeth

Teeth are easily extracted from a freshly killed animal:

  1. Cut down through the gum tissues on either side of the tooth with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut into the root itself. 
  2. Grasp the top of the tooth with pliers and pull it out intact with a firm, twisting motion.
  3. Remove two teeth and allow to dry inside a labeled paper envelope; we will reserve one for a backup.

Important:

  • DO NOT break the root tip while removing the tooth.
  • DO NOT boil or bleach teeth; contact us if they are coming from a prepared skull.
  • DO NOT include any undried soft tissue (gum tissue, muscle, hide) with the tooth.
  • DO NOT send entire jawbones.
    • If jawbone has dried: soak in hot water (150-170°F), then extract the teeth.
  • DO NOT package in plastic, which prevents complete drying.

The root tip portion of the tooth contains the best cementum for aging. Please preserve the full length of the tooth when extracting it from the jaw. 

A  ⇒  Full length tooth, ideal for processing
B  ⇒  Slight breakage at the tip, can still be processed
C  ⇒  Tooth too broken to process

The root tip portion of the tooth is indicated in red.

Please note: Our aging models are not only species-specific, but are also based on a standard tooth type. Mixing of different tooth types in an order can cause error because of differences in eruption ages and cementum patterns. For more information about standard tooth types, click the button at right.

Storing the Teeth

Never use any chemical to preserve or store teeth. If jaw fragments are preserved with teeth in them, treatment with alcohol or formalin will permanently harden the connective tissue attachments between teeth and bone, making extraction extremely difficult. Storage in paper envelopes will allow teeth to dry completely when stored in a cool and dry place. Do not store or submit samples in sealed plastic envelopes. An airtight seal will allow decomposition of soft tissues, damaging cementum layers and creating an undesirable nuisance factor for technicians who handle the teeth later on. If teeth are to be stored for several months or years, store them cleaned and frozen.