Quantitative assessment of neural development in human premolars



The number of nerve fibers entering a tooth gives an indication of the tooth's capacity to perform a sensory function. Nerve fiber development was quantitated from cross sections of the apical portions of 49 erupted human premolars at various stages of root development and in subjects up to 71 years of age. Neural development was incomplete in immature teeth, greatly variable in young mature teeth, and complete in older teeth. Myelinated axons changed in number but not in size during tooth development. There were significantly fewer myelinated axons in teeth with open and parallel apical foramina than in older teeth. Unmyelinated axons did not change significantly in number with development but fewer large axons were found in older teeth. The number of unmyelinated axons enclosed in a single boundary lamina tended to be lower in older teeth. As a physiologic correlate, threshold responses to electrical stimulation were also determined prior to premolar removal. Threshold stimulation decreased significantly with apical foramen maturation. A significant negative correlation was found between the threshold stimulus and the number of myelinated axons in fully developed teeth, but not in immature teeth.