Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Degree Level



Biological Sciences


Ungar, Peter

Committee Member/Reader

Tipsmark, Christian

Committee Member/Second Reader

Beaulieu, Jeremy

Committee Member/Third Reader

Thomas, Johanna


Narrow, deep, and elaborate dental fissures are widely believed to increase the predisposition of enamel to develop carious lesions as these surfaces are thought to be ideal for cariogenic bacteria to adhere to. Therefore, dentists prescribe sealants as a preventative measure for patients with such fissures to avoid tooth decay. Yet to date, there is no objective data supporting the notion that fissure morphology actually affects caries susceptibility, nor is there a quantifiable, clinically practical method to characterize fissure patterns expected to increase risk of caries disease.

In this study, three new methods to quantitatively characterize fissure pattern in mandibular first molars were developed using widely available 3D analytic software and intraoral scanners newly common in dental clinics. The first method defines fissure pattern through measuring groove-fossa-system angles. The second uses the percent of pixels representing the occlusal surface comprising fissures. Lastly, the third focuses on fissure surface area difference. Using these methods, fissure attributes were compared with caries progression data of the 166 specimens to test the hypothesis that deeper, more voluminous fissures would lead to caries and cavity progression.

Results illustrate that the three methods developed measure different but complementary aspects of fissure pattern, offering a more robust characterization than previously achieved by other methods. I envision that combining the methods I created, a software package for intraoral scanners can be generated to allow for quick and reliable examination of fissures in clinics and research labs. However, the hypothesis that fissure pattern, as characterized in this study, affects susceptibility to caries was rejected for this dataset as no significant association between the two was found. Considering the limitations of this analysis, future studies with better control over the sample and more time allotted for caries progression are warranted to confirm that no relationship exists between fissure morphology and caries progression.