An examination of the differential susceptibility pattern of the dentition to linear enamel hypoplasia

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Jennifer S Nelson

Abstract

Enamel hypoplasia is a dental pathology that forms when an individual is exposed to physiological stress in early life while tooth crowns are developing. Biological anthropologists utilize these enamel defects as indicators of growth interruption and interpret them as reflective of factors pertaining to health status and cultural practices that influence health. Over decades of research, numerous studies have noted a pattern in the distribution of linear enamel hypoplasia across the dentition. It is suggested that the anterior dentition presents the highest frequency of defects, followed by the premolars, with molars most rarely exhibiting hypoplasia. This apparent differential susceptibility pattern has resulted in the preferential study of the anterior dentition in anthropology, however little research has been conducted into the validity or cause of this developmental phenomenon. Through examination of the literature, the observed higher frequency of enam2el hypoplasia in the anterior dentition substantiates the existence of this differential distribution pattern. Further investigation reveals that the cause of this varying susceptibility has not been sufficiently explored, leading to a number of inconclusive explanations. Examination of these theories – ranging from the chronology of tooth development, specifics of crown morphology, and variations in genetic control – indicate that there is no single causal variable, but that a multitude of factors are responsible. From this research it is apparent that further study is necessary to fully understand why the anterior teeth appear to be more susceptible to hypoplastic defects than their posterior counterparts.

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