Growth tracks in dental enamel

  • Risnes S
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The present paper evaluates the enamel growth tracks as tools in the chronological mapping of dental development, with special reference to hominids. Dental enamel consists of tightly packed hydroxyapatite crystals organized by differential orientation into a pattern of prisms and interprisms. The crystal organization is probably under the influence of both cellular and physico-chemical factors. The structure of mature enamel testifies to events that took place during enamel formation. The prisms are the fossilized tracks traced out by ameloblasts. The tangential diameter of ameloblasts and the central distance of prisms increase from the enamel-dentine junction to the enamel surface. Available evidence suggests that prism cross-striations are light microscopic expressions of prism varicosities and/or compositional variations, that these are due to a rhythm in enamel formation, and that this rhythm is diurnal. In human enamel the mean daily rate of enamel production is about 3.5 μm, but increases from inner to outer enamel and decreases from incisal/cuspal to cervical enamel. Conclusive evidence has shown that Retzius lines are incremental lines. Evenly spaced Retzius lines probably represent a 6-11 day rhythm in enamel formation, while other Retzius lines may be due to various types of stress. The geometry of the enamel growth tracks and their chronological significance are valuable tools in chronological mapping of dental development and for understanding temporal and spatial patterns in tooth morphogenesis. The taxonomic significance of prism packing patterns, prism decussation and enamel thickness should be clarified through further systematic descriptive research.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Crystal orientation
  • Dental enamel
  • Prism cross-striations
  • Prisms
  • Retzius lines

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