Structural integrity of enamel: experimental and modeling
Inter Amer Assoc Dental Research
Computing, Health and Science
Tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body and is directly responsible for dental function. Due to its non-regenerative nature, enamel is unable to heal and repair itself biologically after damage. We hypothesized that with its unique microstructure, enamel possesses excellent resistance to contact-induced damage, regardless of loading direction. By combining instrumented indentation tests with microstructural analysis, we report that enamel can absorb indentation energy through shear deformation within its protein layers between apatite crystallites. Moreover, a near-isotropic inelastic response was observed when we analyzed indentation data in directions either perpendicular or parallel to the path of enamel prisms. An “effective” crystal orientation angle, 33°–34°, was derived for enamel microstructure, independent of the loading direction. These findings will help guide the design of the nanostructural architecture of dental restorative materials.