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Cracking Teeth

Networks of microcracks in teeth may play a role in protecting tooth integrity

11 January 2023

Cracking Teeth

Take a look at smiling photos of yourself and you won’t spot these but they’re there. Microcracks (MCs). These tiny cracks in the hard outer coating of your teeth (enamel) develop with age. How do they affect tooth structure and integrity? Researchers investigate using X-ray micro-computed tomography of four extracted human teeth. Image processing using specific algorithms allowed the team to create 3D images of the density of the enamel (top row) and softer inner tissue (dentine, middle row), as well as MCs (bottom row) from different angles (left to right). This revealed an intricate star-shaped network of MCs that weren’t limited to the enamel but passed through into the dentine along two almost perpendicular planes. These healthy teeth nonetheless retained their structural integrity. MCs may therefore be involved in protecting tooth integrity from the strong forces applied to teeth daily. More research is needed to uncover how.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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