2010 Volume 118 Issue 3 Pages 191-198
Dental enamel thickness continues to feature prominently in anthropological studies of ape and human evolution, as well as studies of preventative oral care and treatment. Traditional studies of enamel thickness require physical sectioning of teeth for linear and scaled measurements. Recent applications of microtomographic imaging allow scientists to employ larger and more diverse samples, including global samples of recent humans as well as fossil hominin teeth. Unfortunately, little is known about the degree of enamel thickness variation among human populations, particularly across the dentition. This study employed microtomography to virtually image, section, and quantify the average enamel thickness of a sample of clinically extracted Indonesian canine and premolar teeth. This virtual sample was compared to physically sectioned African and European teeth. The results demonstrate that average enamel thickness is similar among human dentitions; no significant differences were detected within tooth positions, which is surprising given developmental differences between European and African canines and premolars. When populations were combined, differences were found in average enamel thickness between maxillary and mandibular premolars, and between canines and premolars within both dental arcades. This finding is potentially due to differences in premolar morphology and a trend of increasing enamel thickness distally throughout the dentition. The finding of limited population variation within tooth positions and significant variation between tooth positions is consistent with previous two-dimensional and three-dimensional studies of human molar enamel thickness. Average enamel thickness in canines and premolars does not differ between the sexes in our sample, although male teeth tend to have larger enamel and dentine cross-sectional areas, enamel–dentine junction lengths, and bi-cervical diameters. Males have significantly greater dentine area and enamel–dentine junction length than females for maxillary canines and premolars. The results of this study suggest that enamel thickness values in mixed-populations of humans are appropriate for comparisons with fossil hominins.