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Int J Oral Sci. 2012 Sep;4(3):119-28. doi: 10.1038/ijos.2012.57. Epub 2012 Sep 21.

Methods for studying tooth root cementum by light microscopy.

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  • 1National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


The tooth root cementum is a thin, mineralized tissue covering the root dentin that is present primarily as acellular cementum on the cervical root and cellular cementum covering the apical root. While cementum shares many properties in common with bone and dentin, it is a unique mineralized tissue and acellular cementum is critical for attachment of the tooth to the surrounding periodontal ligament (PDL). Resources for methodologies for hard tissues often overlook cementum and approaches that may be of value for studying this tissue. To address this issue, this report offers detailed methodology, as well as comparisons of several histological and immunohistochemical stains available for imaging the cementum-PDL complex by light microscopy. Notably, the infrequently used Alcian blue stain with nuclear fast red counterstain provided utility in imaging cementum in mouse, porcine and human teeth. While no truly unique extracellular matrix markers have been identified to differentiate cementum from the other hard tissues, immunohistochemistry for detection of bone sialoprotein (BSP), osteopontin (OPN), and dentin matrix protein 1 (DMP1) is a reliable approach for studying both acellular and cellular cementum and providing insight into developmental biology of these tissues. Histological and immunohistochemical approaches provide insight on developmental biology of cementum.

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