A three-dimensional analysis of enamel distribution patterns in human permanent first molars

Reiko T. Kono, Gen Suwa, Toyohisa Tanijiri

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78 Citations (Scopus)


The morphology of the enamel cap and the thickness of the enamel of human molars are regarded as closely related to function. Previously, enamel thickness has been studied in specific sections only, not the distribution patterns of the entire crown. Here, the three-dimensional distribution pattern of the enamel of human permanent first molars was examined with a newly developed system. A distinctive pattern of enamel thickness common to all the individuals examined was found, regardless of the variation in absolute enamel thickness among individuals. It was confirmed that the lingual faces of upper molars and the buccal faces of lower molars have thicker enamel than the other crown faces. Moreover, in lower molars, enamel was significantly thicker at the hypoconid than at the protoconid crown face. The distal face tended to exhibit thicker enamel than either mesial or lingual faces, owing to the thicker hypoconulid enamel. It is suggested that the gradients of thickness within a molar are not necessarily manifested according to direction, but are the result of cusp-specific patterning. The distribution of enamel in the occlusal fovea was found to correspond to the morphology of the outer enamel surface, with the exception of the distinctly thin enamel at and near the tip of the mesiobuccal cusps in both upper and lower molars. The thickness of the enamel in that region might therefore be related to developmental timing or the topography of the enamel-dentine junction, rather than to functional demand. When viewed from a whole-crown, three-dimensional perspective, enamel thickness patterns are in part, but not entirely, explained as an adaptation to functional demand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-875
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Oral Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2002 Dec 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Enamel thickness
  • Permanent first molars
  • Three-dimensional distribution pattern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • General Dentistry
  • Cell Biology


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