The bell stage is known for the histodifferentiation and morphodifferentiation that takes place. The dental organ is bell-shaped during this stage, and the majority of its cells are called stellate reticulum because of their star-shaped appearance. The bell stage is divided into the early bell stage and the late bell stage. Cells on the periphery of the enamel organ separate into four important layers. Cuboidal cells on the periphery of the dental organ are known as outer enamel epithelium (OEE). The columnar cells of the enamel organ adjacent to the enamel papilla are known as inner enamel epithelium (IEE). The cells between the IEE and the stellate reticulum form a layer known as the stratum intermedium. The rim of the enamel organ where the outer and inner enamel epithelium join is called the cervical loop.
In summary, the layers in order of innermost to outermost consist of dentin, enamel (formed by IEE, or 'ameloblasts', as they move outwards/upwards), inner enamel epithelium and stratum intermedium (stratified cells that support the synthetic activity of the inner enamel epithelium) What follows is part of the initial 'enamel organ', the center of which is made up of stellate reticulum cells that serve to protect the enamel organ. This is all encased by the OEE layer.
Other events occur during the bell stage. The dental lamina disintegrates, leaving the developing teeth completely separated from the epithelium of the oral cavity; the two will not join again until the final eruption of the tooth into the mouth.
The crown of the tooth, which is influenced by the shape of the inner enamel epithelium, also takes shape during this stage. Throughout the mouth, all teeth undergo this same process; it is still uncertain why teeth form various crown shapes—for instance, incisors versus canines. There are two dominant hypotheses. The "field model" proposes there are components for each type of tooth shape found in the ectomesenchyme during tooth development. The components for particular types of teeth, such as incisors, are localized in one area and dissipate rapidly in different parts of the mouth. Thus, for example, the "incisor field" has factors that develop teeth into incisor shape, and this field is concentrated in the central incisor area, but decreases rapidly in the canine area.
The other dominant hypothesis, the "clone model", proposes that the epithelium programs a group of ectomesenchymal cells to generate teeth of particular shapes. This group of cells, called a clone, coaxes the dental lamina into tooth development, causing a tooth bud to form. Growth of the dental lamina continues in an area called the "progress zone". Once the progress zone travels a certain distance from the first tooth bud, a second tooth bud will start to develop. These two models are not necessarily mutually exclusive, nor does widely accepted dental science consider them to be so: it is postulated that both models influence tooth development at different times.
Other structures that may appear in a developing tooth in this stage are enamel knots, enamel cords, and enamel niche.
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