The most common root malformations in humans arise from either developmental disorders of the root alone or disorders of radicular development as part of a general tooth dysplasia. The aim of this review is to relate the characteristics of these root malformations to potentially disrupted processes involved in radicular morphogenesis. Radicular morphogenesis proceeds under the control of Hertwig's epithelial root sheath (HERS) which determines the number, length, and shape of the root, induces the formation of radicular dentin, and participates in the development of root cementum. Formation of HERS at the transition from crown to root development appears to be very insensitive to adverse effects, with the result that rootless teeth are extremely rare. In contrast, shortened roots as a consequence of impaired or prematurely halted apical growth of HERS constitute the most prevalent radicular dysplasia which occurs due to trauma and unknown reasons as well as in association with dentin disorders. While odontoblast differentiation inevitably stops when growth of HERS is arrested, it seems to be unaffected even in cases of severe dentin dysplasias such as regional odontodysplasia and dentin dysplasia type I. As a result radicular dentin formation is at least initiated and progresses for a limited time. The only condition affecting cementogenesis is hypophosphatasia which disrupts the formation of acellular cementum through an inhibition of mineralization. A process particularly susceptible to adverse effects appears to be the formation of the furcation in multirooted teeth. Impairment or disruption of this process entails taurodontism, single-rooted posterior teeth, and misshapen furcations. Thus even though many characteristics of human root malformations can be related to disorders of specific processes involved in radicular morphogenesis, precise inferences as to the pathogenesis of these dysplasias are hampered by the still limited knowledge on root formation
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