Send to

Choose Destination
J Hum Evol. 2006 Mar;50(3):329-46. Epub 2005 Nov 21.

Variation in modern human enamel formation times.

Author information

Oral Biology, Dental School, The University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4BW, UK.


Most of what we know about the timing of human enamel formation comes from radiographic studies on children of known age. Here, we present new longitudinal data derived from a histological analysis of tooth enamel. Two samples, one from southern Africa and one from northern Europe, contained all anterior and molar tooth types. Two further samples contained only one tooth type: canines from a medieval Danish sample and third molars from a modern North American sample. Data were collected on 326 molars and 352 anterior teeth. Each tooth was sectioned and prepared for polarized light microscopy. We used daily enamel cross striations to determine cuspal enamel formation time, recorded the periodicity of long-period striae in the lateral enamel, and used this value to calculate enamel formation times for each decile of crown length. We present data that reveal some of the processes whereby differences in enamel formation times arise between our samples. Mean cuspal enamel formation times were similar in southern African and northern European anterior teeth, but differed in certain molar cusps. All the southern African anterior teeth completed enamel formation earlier. The greatest difference in mean chronological age at enamel completion was 5.2 vs. 6.2 years of age in lower canines. However, enamel completion times in the molar teeth showed few differences between the samples, with mean times for the longest forming cusps all falling between 3.0 years and 3.45 years. Our data suggest fewer differences between samples and smaller ranges of variation than in many radiographic studies and present a more realistic picture of worldwide variation in enamel formation times.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center