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Even though all teeth may seem similar to the unsuspecting onlooker, they differ vastly from person and person as well as within the same person.
Many variations are found in the teeth and this includes the shape, size, number of roots, the way in which they take their position in the mouth and even the color. Some variations, though, are clinically recognizable due to the presence of some particular features.
One of the most important of these is Taurodontism. The word comes from the Greek word for "bull", "tauro", and "odontos", meaning "tooth". This is why teeth affected by this condition are also called "bull teeth".
Taurodontism affects the lifespan of the teeth as well as the treatment options that are available for the affected teeth.
Characteristic Features Of Taurodontism
In normal conditions, the back teeth comprise the crown, or the part of the tooth you can see in the mouth and the roots, which may be two or more in number. The length of the crown and the length of the roots underneath is almost similar, providing a strong support to the tooth.
In taurodontism, this ratio is altered because of an abnormally large crown. The center of the tooth, the pulp chamber, where all the nerves and blood vessels of the tooth reside is like a blown up version of itself.
As a consequence, other layers of the teeth like the dentin and enamel, which are responsible for the protection of this sensitive portion are much thinner and weaker than normal.
These characteristic features of a tooth affected by taurodontism can only be seen in a radiograph since they appear to be the same as any other tooth on appearance.
Why Are Some Teeth Affected By This Condition?
The exact reason behind the development of this condition is debated. There was a belief in earlier times that taurodontism is associated with certain chromosomal disorders such as Down’s Syndrome, Klinefelter's Syndrome, had a predilection in certain races, or was a sign of an underlying genetic abnormality.
One of the reasons why racial predilection was thought to be a factor because a high number of cases were found in Eskimo populations that were used to using their teeth in preparing tough Whale skin for protection from the cold.
The researchers presumed that taurodontism could be a morphologic adaptation to the increased amount of forces the teeth were subjected to, however, similar forces were subjected on the teeth by Neanderthals and their skull did not show evidence of widespread taurodontism, thus bringing up the flaw in this theory.
These theories are no longer accepted and the current research into the cause behind taurodontism is focused on localized alterations during the development of the tooth.
Researchers have identified that the group of cells that form the roots of the teeth do not follow the same path as they do in normal teeth and this could be the basic reason behind the occurrence of taurodontism.