Dental enamel formation and its impact on clinical dentistry

J Dent Educ. 2001 Sep;65(9):896-905.


The nature of tooth enamel is of inherent interest to dental professionals. The current-day clinical practice of dentistry involves the prevention of enamel demineralization, the promotion of enamel remineralization, the restoration of cavitated enamel where demineralization has become irreversible, the vital bleaching of dental enamel that has become discolored, and the diagnosis and treatment of developmental enamel malformations, which can be caused by environmental or genetic factors. On a daily basis, dental health providers make diagnostic and treatment decisions that are influenced by their understanding of tooth formation. A systemic condition during tooth development, such as high fever, can produce a pattern of enamel defects in the dentition. Knowing the timing of tooth development permits estimates about the timing of the disturbance. The process of enamel maturation continues following tooth eruption, so that erupted teeth can become less susceptible to decay over time. Mutations in the genes encoding enamel proteins lead to amelogenesis imperfecta, a collection of inherited diseases having enamel malformations as the predominant phenotype. Defects in the amelogenin gene cause X-linked amelogenesis imperfecta, and genes encoding other enamel proteins are candidates for autosomal forms. Here we review our current understanding of dental enamel formation, and relate this information to clinical circumstances where this understanding may be particularly relevant.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amelogenesis / genetics
  • Amelogenesis / physiology*
  • Amelogenesis Imperfecta / genetics
  • Dental Caries / therapy
  • Dental Enamel / abnormalities
  • Dental Enamel / physiology*
  • Dental Enamel Proteins / genetics
  • Dental Restoration, Permanent
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Odontogenesis / physiology
  • Tooth Bleaching
  • Tooth Demineralization / prevention & control
  • Tooth Discoloration / therapy
  • Tooth Eruption / physiology
  • Tooth Remineralization


  • Dental Enamel Proteins