Scientists used a combination of advanced microscopy and chemical detection techniques to uncover the structural makeup of human tooth enamel at unprecedented atomic resolution, revealing lattice patterns and unexpected irregularities. The findings could lead to a better understanding of how tooth decay develops and might be prevented. The research was supported in part by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) at the National Institutes of Health. The findings appear in Nature.
“This work provides much more detailed information about the atomic makeup of enamel than we previously knew,” said Jason Wan, Ph.D., a program officer at NIDCR. “These findings can broaden our thinking and approach to strengthening teeth against mechanical forces, as well as repairing damage due to erosion and decay.”
Your teeth are remarkably resilient, despite enduring the stress and strain of biting, chewing, and eating for a lifetime. Enamel — the hardest substance in the human body — is largely responsible for this endurance. Its high mineral content gives it strength. Enamel forms the outer covering of teeth and helps prevent tooth decay, or caries.
Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases, affecting up to 90% of children and the vast majority of adults worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Left untreated, tooth decay can lead to painful abscesses, bone infection, and bone loss.
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