Regulation of dental enamel shape and hardness

J Dent Res. 2010 Oct;89(10):1024-38. doi: 10.1177/0022034510375829. Epub 2010 Jul 30.


Epithelial-mesenchymal interactions guide tooth development through its early stages and establish the morphology of the dentin surface upon which enamel will be deposited. Starting with the onset of amelogenesis beneath the future cusp tips, the shape of the enamel layer covering the crown is determined by five growth parameters: the (1) appositional growth rate, (2) duration of appositional growth (at the cusp tip), (3) ameloblast extension rate, (4) duration of ameloblast extension, and (5) spreading rate of appositional termination. Appositional growth occurs at a mineralization front along the ameloblast distal membrane in which amorphous calcium phosphate (ACP) ribbons form and lengthen. The ACP ribbons convert into hydroxyapatite crystallites as the ribbons elongate. Appositional growth involves a secretory cycle that is reflected in a series of incremental lines. A potentially important function of enamel proteins is to ensure alignment of successive mineral increments on the tips of enamel ribbons deposited in the previous cycle, causing the crystallites to lengthen with each cycle. Enamel hardens in a maturation process that involves mineral deposition onto the sides of existing crystallites until they interlock with adjacent crystallites. Neutralization of acidity generated by hydroxyapatite formation is a key part of the mechanism. Here we review the growth parameters that determine the shape of the enamel crown as well as the mechanisms of enamel appositional growth and maturation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ameloblasts / physiology
  • Amelogenesis / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Calcium Phosphates / metabolism
  • Dental Enamel / embryology*
  • Dental Enamel Proteins / metabolism
  • Durapatite / metabolism
  • Enamel Organ / physiology
  • Humans
  • Tooth Calcification / physiology
  • Tooth Crown / embryology


  • Calcium Phosphates
  • Dental Enamel Proteins
  • amorphous calcium phosphate
  • Durapatite