Public Release: 

Research finds tooth enamel fast-track in humans

University of Kent

The research found that incisor teeth grow quickly in the early stages of the second trimester of a baby's development, while molars grow at a slower rate in the third trimester. This is so incisors are ready to erupt after birth, at approximately six months of age, when a baby makes the transition from breast-feeding to weaning.

Weaning in humans takes place relatively early compared to some primates, such as chimpanzees. As a result, there is less time available for human incisors to form, so the enamel grows rapidly to compensate.

This research can increase our understanding of weaning in our fossil ancestors and could also help dentists as dental problems do not register in all teeth in the same way. Enamel cells deposit new tissue at different times and different rates, depending on the tooth type.

Exactly when early weaning in humans first began is a hotly debated topic amongst anthropologists. Current dental approaches rely on finding fossil skulls with teeth that are still erupting - which is an extremely rare find. Anthropologists will now be able to explore the start of weaning in an entirely new way because 'milk teeth' preserve a record of prenatal enamel growth after they have erupted and for millennia after death.

The research, funded by a Royal Society equipment grant, was conducted by Dr Patrick Mahoney from the Human Osteology Research Lab in the University's School of Anthropology and Conservation.

Dental fast track: prenatal enamel growth, incisor eruption, and weaning in human infants is published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology on 12 November 2014.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajpa.22666/abstract

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Tel: 01227 823581
Email: K.Newton@Kent.ac.uk

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Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

Kent has been ranked: top 10 for overall student satisfaction in the 2013 National Student Survey; 20th in the 2014 and 2015 Guardian University Guide; 28th in the Sunday Times University League Table 2013; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In 2014 it received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

The University is worth £0.6 billion to the economy of the South East, with its students contributing £211 million to that total, and directly or indirectly supports almost 6,800 jobs in the region (source: Viewforth Consulting 2009-10).

In the last Research Assessment Exercise, Kent placed 24th out of 159 UK institutions for its world-leading research, while 97% of its academic staff work in schools or centres where the research is rated as either internationally or nationally excellent.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, it is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.

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