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Journal Article

Safe casting and reliable cusp reconstruction assisted by micro‐computed tomographic scans of fossil teeth


Le Cabec,  Adeline *
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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O’Hara, M. *., Le Cabec, A. *., Song, X., Skinner, M. F., & Guatelli-Steinberg, D. (2019). Safe casting and reliable cusp reconstruction assisted by micro‐computed tomographic scans of fossil teeth. The Anatomical Record, 302(9), 1516-1535. doi:10.1002/ar.24047.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-6E85-D
Dental replicas are frequently utilized in paleoanthropological studies of perikymata and enamel hypoplasia. However, fossil teeth are often fragile and worn, causing two problems: (1) the risk of damage by removing enamel fragments when impression‐making material is separated from the fossil tooth surface, and (2) the need to reconstruct worn portions of the crown to assess perikymata number, distribution, and hypoplasia timing. This study presents the advantages of μCT data of canines and lateral incisors for (1) detecting cracks along the enamel‐dentine junction (EDJ) which could cause damage when casting, and (2) reliably and non‐destructively reconstructing worn or broken cusps. Fragile teeth of Homo naledi, Miocene, and Pleistocene specimens were μCT‐scanned: 2D virtual sections and 3D models allowed for inspecting crack pattern beyond the external surface and 2D virtual sections were used to digitally reconstruct cusp tips (only Homo naledi). Micro‐CT scans allowed cracks running along the EDJ and communicating with radial cracks in the enamel to be identified prior to casting. Cusp reconstructions using μCT data were conducted as precisely as when using thin‐sections or photographs, and with high intra‐ and inter‐observer agreement, while preserving the original specimen and affording numerous planes of virtual section. When available, μCT data should be inspected prior to tooth casting to exclude teeth that show a pattern of cracks that could lead to damage. Virtual sections allow for accessible, reliable, and non‐destructive cusp reconstructions that may be used for developmental (e.g., perikymata and enamel hypoplasia) or enamel thickness studies. Anat Rec, 2019. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.