About us


To overview

24/04/2013 - Material loss protects teeth against fatigue failure

Frankfurt am Main, den 24.04.2013. Scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt together with dental technicians have digitally analysed modern human teeth using an engineering approach, finite element method, to evaluate the biomechanical behaviour of teeth under realistic loading. They report results, showing that very widespread loss of dental material (enamel and dentine) at the base of the crown might be linked to the reduction of tooth wear in our industrialised societies. The study is published today in the professional journal PLoS ONE.

Our teeth are important and expensive for us. In this respect aesthetic aspects are of major interest. A healthy dentition should show shiny white tooth crowns and possibly no occlusal wear. The evolutionary history of our dentition teaches us something different: natural tooth wear as an inevitable consequence of chewing food and habitat accompanying human evolution since ancient times.

“In our industrialised societies we find an increase in dental cervical defects”, explains Ottmar Kullmer of the Senckenberg Research Institute: “Based on the results of our simulations of chewing loads, we assume that much of the enamel failure we find today frequently in tooth crowns is probably caused by cyclic tensile stresses during chewing.”

The researchers used methods from engineering science (Finite Element Analysis, FEA), after applying a new Software tool (Occlusal Fingerprint Analyser) developed in the Senckenberg Research Institute to precisely determine tooth to tooth contacts. “The computer simulation of chewing forces creates high tensile stresses exactly in the cervical areas where we frequently find tooth lesions in our teeth”, reconsiders Stefano Benazzi of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, who carried out the Finite Element Analysis. To investigate changes in the stress pattern in the same tooth crowns with varying tooth wear ages, two premolars were artificially abraded in the laboratory, based on their individual data of occlusal movement. So, it was possible to calculate the changes in the stress pattern, depending on the wear stage.

The stress in the teeth with advanced wear shows a far better distribution of the loads over the whole tooth crown, so that the tensile stresses will be remarkably reduced. “Evolutionary factors have apparently led to a quite successful compromise between material loss and longest possible preservation of function”, says Benazzi. The extension of the lifespan and the quick changes in our lifestyle with a remarkable reduction in tooth wear present a major challenge for modern dentistry, say the scientists.

Dental tissue and supporting structures
Dental tissue and supporting structures
of the second premolar of the right
mandible after segmentation.
© Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary


Dr. Ottmar Kullmer
Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut Frankfurt am Main
Abteilung Paläoanthropologie und Messelforschung
Sektion Tertiäre Säugetiere
Senckenberganlage 25
60325 Frankfurt am Main
Tel.: +49-69-7542-1364
Fax: +49-69-7542-1558

Stefano Benazzi
Max Planck Institut für
evolutionäre AnthropologieAbteilung Humanevolution
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig
Tel.: +49 (0)341 3550-362

Download press release

Press offices

Regina Bartel
Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung
Senckenberganlage 25
60325 Frankfurt am Main
Tel. 069- 7542 1434

Sandra Jacob
Max Planck Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig
Tel.: 0341- 3500-122

The press image can be used free of charge for editorial material provided the copyright referred to is also published. Disclosure to third parties is only permitted in the context of this particular report. Commercial use of the image is not permitted.






The study of life forms in their diversity and ecosystems, climate research and geology, the search for life in the past and ultimately the understanding of the entire system of life on earth – this is what the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung works for. Exhibitions and museums are the showcases of natural science, whereby Senckenberg shares the latest scientific findings with people and provides an insight into bygone ages as well as the diversity of nature. More information is available at

Press contact

Dr. Sören Dürr
Tel.: 069 7542-1580

Alexandra Donecker
Tel.: 069 7542-1561
Mobil: 0152-0923 1133

Judith Jördens
Tel.: 069 7542-1434
Mobil: 0172-5842340

Email: pressestelle@senckenberg.de

Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum
Senckenberganlage 25
60325 Frankfurt


21/05/2018 11:00:34

20/05/2018 20:35:14

20/05/2018 17:05:52