Gross Dental Wear and Dental Microwear in Historical Perspective

  • Jerome C. Rose
  • Peter S. Ungar


The wearing away of the tooth surface during the chewing of food is a natural process to which the teeth have continuously adapted since even before they were used by Devonian fish. Since then, teeth have been altered in growth pattern, size, morphology, and structural integration of dentine and enamel to accommodate the various diets exploited over time. The processes of adapting to tooth wear during mastication are in themselves works of art and wonder to be appreciated and marveled over. We take just one example from modern human teeth. As the occlusal enamel and underlying dentine are worn away by the tough gritty foods the pulp or vital living portion of the tooth is in danger of being exposed to the oral environment. Once this happens the pulp becomes infected and abscessed which eventually leads to tooth loss. Not only will the tooth’s owner experience excruciating pain and the health dangers of an active infection, but once the tooth is lost, reduced ability to chew and eat. All of this potentially contributes to premature death. But, this usually does not happen and countless teeth are found which have been worn right down to the gums without pulp exposure. As the occlusal surface is worn away, the odontoblasts lining the pulp chamber deposit secondary dentine along the pulp chamber, which provides more tooth substance between the pulp and approaching chewing surface. If the rate of secondary dentine formation can match the rate of wear then there will always be dentine to form the occlusal surface and protect the pulp.


Wear Rate Occlusal Surface Tooth Wear Dental Wear Fossil Primate 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jerome C. Rose
  • Peter S. Ungar

There are no affiliations available

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