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Tissue Mechanical Forces and Evolutionary Developmental Changes Act Through Space and Time to Shape Tooth Morphology and Function


Efforts from diverse disciplines, including evolutionary studies and biomechanical experiments, have yielded new insights into the genetic, signaling, and mechanical control of tooth formation and functions. Evidence from fossils and non-model organisms has revealed that a common set of genes underlie tooth-forming potential of epithelia, and changes in signaling environments subsequently result in specialized dentitions, maintenance of dental stem cells, and other phenotypic adaptations. In addition to chemical signaling, tissue forces generated through epithelial contraction, differential growth, and skeletal constraints act in parallel to shape the tooth throughout development. Here recent advances in understanding dental development from these studies are reviewed and important gaps that can be filled through continued application of evolutionary and biomechanical approaches are discussed.

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