Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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In the Tooth

Analysing tooth enamel's crystal structure reveals why it's so tough

09 November 2019

In the Tooth

Our tooth enamel survives a lifetime of gnashing and nibbling – its secret may lie in this scan of its microscopic crystal pattern. In this human enamel, we see decussation bands – stripes where bundles of crystals known as rods (blue), meet and cross each other. The rod bundles may look a little chaotic, running downwards (on the left), outwards (in the middle) or at an angle (on the right). But using these scans to build computer models of human enamel, researchers found that differences in the direction, or orientation, help our enamel stay tough – a crack might run deeper in aligned crystals, like a split down a seam of rock, while a little randomness protects against damage – insight that may one day influence the design of dental implants.

Written by John Ankers

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