“HEALING CRACKS” ON FOSSIL TEETH: IMPROVEMENT OF ODONTOLOGICAL STUDY METHODS IN PALAEONTOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Keywords: cracks of teeth, Odontometry, micro-computed tomography, 3D reconstruction, morphology, Tham Khai cave
Abstract. A significant part of fossil findings, which are objects in palaeontological and palaeoanthropological research, is represented by teeth. Even if compared with skeletal remains, they are composed of highly mineralised tissues. This fact considerably increases their potential for being preserved withstanding destructive environmental factors. Nevertheless fossilisation process is accompanied by various changes in teeth including over the centuries with regard to their integrity or deformations. Thus among palaeontological findings there is a noticeable share of fragmented teeth. However we will focus in the current paper on a special group of teeth, which have preserved their most essential morphological features, being at the same time on the way to their fragmentation - cracked teeth.
Recent morphological and especially morphometric study methods applied to dental findings have been developed largely in line with high-resolution imaging techniques, such as microfocus x-ray tomographic scanning. They provide diversity of detailed digital reconstructions of teeth and application of image processing. This allows improvements of existing methods in odontological studies as well as and development of new as well, including those using automated algorithms, e.g. automated digital odontometry. This technique is sensitive to reconstructed surface quality, uninterrupted requiring surfaces as cracks hinder running the algorithms. Thus we propose method for reconstructing cracked teeth, which allows to obtain better results in morphological studies of teeth. The method proposed is based on consistent stages of surface curvature analysis and minimizing average distance between points opposing cracks surfaces.