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Pig Tooth Enamel Formation

As mammalian omnivores, pig teeth are fairly good models for studying the development and aging of human teeth. Dental enamel is formed by the epithelial cells of the enamel organ including the ameloblasts, the cells that produce enamel matrix proteins.

As with humans, pigs feature molars, premolars (or bicuspids), canines, and incisors and similar to most mammals, pigs and humans are diphyodont or develop and erupt two generations of teeth into their jaws. In the pig's deciduous (baby teeth) formula of 3/3, 1/1, 3/3, there are three incisors, one canine, and three premolars on each side of the bottom jaw for a total of 28 teeth as compared to humans with 20 primary teeth growing into a mixed dentition of permanent and primary teeth that ends by age 13 years. For permanent teeth, pigs exhibit a dentition formula of 3/3, 1/1, 4/4, 3/3 or three incisors, one canine, four premolars, and three molars on each side of the top and bottom of the mouth for a total of 44 teeth. Humans, on the other hand, are characterized by a permanent dentition of 32 teeth, 16 upper, 16 lower, and canines that hopefully never approach the tusk-like appearance of a mature boar hog. Baby pigs undergo the painful process of teething just as human babies suffer.

Pig and human teeth are protected by outer coatings of enamel, the hardest tissue in the body. Below the crown line, the root of the tooth is protected by cementum. The bulk of the tooth below the enamel and cementum is the dentin, which lines the pulp cavity. Within the central, innermost portion, the pulp performs the formative, sensory, nutritive, and other functions for the life of the tooth. Using tissue culture techniques in the laboratory, ameloblasts have produced enamel protein matrices using secreted enamelysin, an active proteolytic enzyme, to process and slowly degrade proteins in secretory stage enamel.

Contributing Authors

Cynthia D. Kelly, Thomas J. Fellers and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.



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