Cementum Annuli Questions
What is Cementum annuli Aging?
The basis for cementum aging is the cyclic nature of cementum deposits on the roots of mammals’ teeth each year, which results in a pattern of “rings” in the tooth, like those formed in the wood of trees. A darkly staining ring, or “annulus”, is formed during winter on most all mammals. Abundant, lightly staining cementum is formed during the growth seasons of spring and summer. Some “experts” say these rings occur because of nutritional or seasonal stress, but since the same rings occur on human teeth, we doubt that is true. The purpose of these cementum layers on the roots of mammals’ teeth is to provide a new “rough” surface for the flesh in the jaw to adhere to the root of the teeth each year. To obtain the age the teeth are put through several chemical processes and then sectioned thinner than paper using advanced histological techniques. We then view the teeth under a microscope to count the cementum annuli rings. See the image below as a demonstration.
How accurate is Cementum Annuli Aging
In a study done by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks accuracy rates of cementum annuli were 97.3% for elk through age 14, 92.6% for mule deer through age 14, and 85.1% for white-tailed deer through 9 years old. Tooth eruption or tooth replacement is a highly reliable way to age mammals until they have all their permanent teeth.
In whitetails you can accurately place deer as 6 months old, 18 months old, or 2 ½ or older using the easily learned replacement technique.
In the same study by Hamlin referred to above; the accuracy of molar wear aging was 62.3% for mule deer, 42.9% for whitetails, and 50% for elk in the 3-4 year classes, 16% for elk 5 years old. They ultimately concluded that “The accuracy provided by the cementum annuli method is necessary to determine whether various physical and population parameters change significantly with age of the animal.” So what is the source of this popular myth of molar wear aging?
We are still working to improve techniques to improve the overall accuracy but the numbers speak for themselves. CA aging is the superior method for aging animals over 2.5 years old.
How is the testing performed?
In order to produce a slide to be read the tooth must go through a long histological process. We first clean the tooth of any flesh or bone fragments to ensure its an ideal sample. Next the calcium from each tooth is removed carefully which gives the bone flexibility. The tooth is then processed through mechanically through a series of chemicals that allows the pores of the bone to be infiltrated with wax. The tooth is then embedded into a solid wax block. The block is sectioned paper thin on a microtome and placed on a slide for staining. We then send the tooth through another chemical process to allow it to receive our custom formulated stain. After the staining is complete the glass coverslip is applied for preservation and the slide is read.
How does CA aging compare to Wear and Replacement?
The molar wear technique of aging ungulates compares the tooth wear of known age animals to the tooth wear of harvested animals. The theory is that you should be able to determine age by finding a match, wear wise, with a known age specimen. I think the cold hard facts show that this is just guesswork, especially for deer 2 ½ years or older. Simply spoken, molar wear does not work if you want an accurate age of the animal you harvested. It is a myth that is still taught to wildlife biologists in college today, even though only one study done in 1949 purported to have scientific evidence it actually worked. Ever study done since then has been unable to verify its accuracy. The cementum-annuli (cross-sectioning teeth) method of aging deer, elk and other wild animals is much different. It first requires decalcifying the central lower incisors (sometimes the M1 molar or other tooth) and then cutting cross-sections of the root tips to a thinness measured in microns. The slice of tooth is then placed on a slide and a special dye is added to enhance viewing. It is placed under a microscope. Lines within the tooth’s diameter are readily visible and can be counted much like the rings of growth on a tree, indicating a deer’s age
Sample Handling Questions
What tooth do I need?
The ideal teeth for aging undulates are the front lower incisors (front two teeth). We ABSOLUTELY have to have the root of the tooth! The root of the tooth is what is sectioned onto the slide. If you are at all concerned about removing the teeth please watch our instructional vidoes and then if you need to cut off the whole front row of teeth we can extract the teeth for an extra $5. You can view those videos here https://deerage.com/instructions/
The preferred sample for carnivores is the upper pre-molar (the tiny tooth just behind the K9. This tooth tends to have the best cementum lines. If you need to send a different tooth please let us know in your order comments.
Can you age only 1 tooth?
We certainly can age a single tooth and generally that’s all we age. We file all the second teeth in case we need them for research or a second look if the first sample was not of high quality. If you only have one front incisor but still wish to send a backup tooth we recommend the tooth directly adjacent to the front two.
What do I do if My tooth broke off? or worn off?
If you tried to extract the front teeth and broke them or the deer has worn their teeth to the gums, DONT PANIC! All you need to do is saw the front row of teeth off about 1.5 inches back from the row of teeth and thats called the “front mandible”. If you paid for the front 2 incisors and need to send the mandible your card will automatically be charged the $5 difference on check in and you are off and running!
Our recommendation is to take the teeth out when the harvest is super fresh. If you do it right away they generally pop right out!
Can you age the molars?
Its important to know we dont do wear aging at all! If you send a molar or jaw it will be processed through the CA process.
We can and do age molars all the time. They are far from the ideal sample. Often times the lines on molars can stack on top of each other. Molars require a lot more time and effort therefore they are more expensive. We always recommend sending the front teeth as a first resort, side teeth as a second resort and molars as a LAST resort.
How do I send my teeth in for analysis?
Step 1- Visit https://orders.deerage.com/ and add the kit with the turn around time that you want to your cart
Step 2- To check out you will need to either enter the details for your animal or decide you will do it later in your portal before sending the teeth
Step 3- Complete checkout and you may then view your order under “Order History” in your customer portal
Step 4- DeerAge ships out kits Daily M-Th and when your kit is shipped you’ll be emailed a tracking number which will also appear in your portal
Step 5- Package your teeth per the kit instructions in the barcoded envelope provided and send via your preferred Carrier
Step 6- When your teeth are Checked in (the Monday after they arrive) you will be given a due date in your portal and notified by email they arrived
Step 7- When your results are entered you will be notified via email that they are in your portal. Emails often land in spam so please log in and check regularly for your results
Step 8 – Celebrate by telling all your friends about our services on instagram @wildlifelabs
Do I have to wait for a kit?
YES!!! I know it SEEMS like waiting for a kit will slow you down but its actually the opposite. By having all our samples come in barcoded envelopes we are able to move through samples VERY quickly. We have shaved 1 month off our baseline turnaround times and are likely going to reduce the turn around again soon. Be sure to keep track of your kit and understand we dont control the post office. If its been lost in transit let us know and we will get a replacement out asap.
How do I package the teeth?
When you place your order online we will send you an envelope in which you can return the teeth. There are full packaging instructions on the inside of the kit. The envelope size is based on the sample type you select. if you selected 2 incisors and ended up needing a mandible that wont fit. You can use a paper envelope but MAKE SURE you send the barcoded envelope with it!
In the mean time if you have already extracted them place them in a PAPER envelope and no plastic with a bit of salt to remove the moisture.
Its important you dont place your sample in plastic at any time as it accelerates the rotting process and becomes a biohazard. Just dry your sample in salt or air dry the two incisors before sending.
Did I say no plastic? Please no plastic. Dont even keep it in plastic. When you are reaching for that ziplock slap your hand and say no no! Grab a paper bag instead and dry that baby out!
Can you return my jaw when you are done?
Unfortunately we cannot return samples. The bulk of your sample will be destroyed in processing as it becomes a microscope slide. We keep any remaining teeth and bone for research. When you agree to our terms at checkout it states that anything sent to DeerAge becomes property of DeerAge.
I'm having trouble checking out?
Mobile Phone Difficulty-
If your on a mobile phone and you have added the kit to your cart and clicked the green checkout button but cant proceed you need to take the following steps. 1. Calm down and dont click back. 2. Turn your phone sideways and see if you can see where to scroll right 3. scroll the sample list to the right to reveal the provide details button. You must provide details for each kit in order to proceed. 4. make sure you agree to our terms then checkout
If you are using Safari and you see a “123” in your cart, please use another browser. Resetting it is possible but not really worth it. Just use any other browser.
Why do you ask for an age estimate?
Having a rough age estimate is a great cross check for us to ensure the lab process went well. The estimate is not checked until the slide is read and about to be entered. If there is a large discrepancy (more than 2 years outside the estimate) the slide is checked again. If the reader feels they are correct despite the discrepancy the age is entered. If the reader feels the sample is questionable the testing is repeated to ensure we are accurate. This is one way we ensure we cross check everything for optimal accuracy.
How do I redeem a kit?
When you are purchasing a kit you have the option to simultaneously “redeem” it by providing details at checkout. You can optionally redeem it later or give it away for someone else to redeem and the kit itself contains the redemption instructions.
To redeem a kit simply log into your portal or visit https://orders.deerage.com/
In the “need to redeem a kit” box enter the full WAL ID number W21-123 and four digit pin 1234. You will then provide the details and finish checkout. When you get to the blue thank you screen you’re all done.
Is there a discount for large quantities?
We dont set quantity requirements but rather offer discounts to those in hunting related industries. The discount is based on your annual usage and is periodically evaluated. This works very well for customers of all sizes as they can send as few as one sample and still receive their discount vs holding onto them and potentially losing them. If you have more than 500 teeth to send at once that can be quoted through our parent company. Simply contact firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are running a commercial hunting business such as a guide, hunting club, taxidermist, Ranch manager etc you can apply for our commercial accounts by visiting https://customer.deerage.com/showCommercialSignup.php
Are you still accepting old kits?
If you have an old kit with the original logo that you bought before 2018 we are still accepting them. You will just need to send to the new address. You will be notified of your new account information and how to log in by email.
Wildlife Analytical Laboratories
2814 Brooks st #114
Missoula, MT 59801
How do I get posted on Instagram or Facebook?
When you upload a picture with your sample you automatically land on our photo report. We receive thousands of photos each year and we try our best to post everyone. Here are tips that will make it more likely you get posted:
- Ensure you have a quality trophy photo.
- Fill out all your stats such as weight & score
- We love those hunting stories! Provide some info about the hunt
Be patient. We do try to get through everyone!
Can I customize my certificate?
Yes and no. There are preset fields that are autofilled in our system. Those fields are: Hunter name, Harvest date, County of harvest, Typical/non, score, weight and number of points. Beyond that the last sentence is customizable.
Keep in mind that as we have gotten busier these are completely automated by our system. We do our best to proof them but dont always catch mistakes. When you are checking out you are given a certificate preview so you can elect to make changes. The preview is also available in your order details. If you need any changes you can request them in the order notes.
Please help us by checking all your certificate information prior to us aging your sample. We want to keep the price of these extremely low to ensure everyone can get one!
Can I upgrade my order to faster service?
If your sample has not been checked in then YES! Please give us a call and we can process your upgrade. If your sample has already been checked in then NO. The teeth are assigned to batches and routed to various departments in the lab with their batch so please be patient and make sure to do platinum next time!
How can I edit my sample?
Currently there is no way to edit on the customer end after the sample is entered. If you need something edited click on the view details button next to your sample then down in the notes section leave a note and a staff member will get it edited for you.
How do I print my results?
You can print results for individual samples by navigating to the “my samples” tab in your portal and printing them. If you would like to print an entire order you can do so from your order history in the top left corner.
Can I get my slide sent to me?
No all slides are kept by DeerAge for research and training. You can however purchase an annotated image at checkout which will provide an image of your slide with the lines highlighted.