The effects of protein malnutrition, both in utero and prior to weaning, on formation of the first mandibular molars were evaluated by phase-contrast and electron microscopy in rats. The nourished group (GI) received a diet that included 20% casein, while the malnourished group (GII) received 5% casein. The first mandibular molars from GII exhibited low density of cells and odontoblasts, which lacked regular organization compared with molars from GI. In addition, a difference in collagen type was observed between the groups, with a prevalence of Type III collagen fibers detected in the dentin, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone of GII, and a prevalence of Type I collagen fibers in GI. Finally, examination of surface area in molar sagittal sections indicated 30% less dentin in GII, compared with GI. Our results suggest that structural and ultra-structural features of the dentin-pulp complex and periodontal components of rat molars are affected by protein deficiency.

Key Words: Protein malnutrition, rat, molar tooth, collagen fibers, electron microscopy.
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