Researchers find out why teeth can last a lifetime

A team of researchers analyzed the enamel of a human tooth with unprecedented detail and found out why it is so difficult and why it can last a lifetime. Unlike any other part of the body, teeth are not recovered naturally, and the enamel they consist of is considered to be the strongest tissue in the human body, not the bone that can last a lifetime.

And that’s how it should be: as Pupa Gilbert, a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and one of the authors of a study published by Nature Communications says, “We chew hundreds of times a day, creating a huge pressure, a condition that would surely be harmful to any other part of the body or to any bone.”

Using advanced imaging techniques, researchers have got a clearer picture of the structural organization of dental enamel, finding that the crystals that make it up are not perfectly aligned as previously thought.

Tooth enamel consists of many small rods, measured length in microns, long and thin hydroxyapatite crystals. These crystals are “disoriented” and this particular structure limits any cracks to a minimum, even on a nanometer scale. It is this structure that makes your teeth last (or almost) long.

Researchers used a special imaging technique called polarization-dependent contrast mapping (PIC), which allowed them to visualize individual nanocrystals while simultaneously observing millions and thus evaluating the entire enamel architecture.

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Melissa Ward

I am a mature-aged graduate student at Colorado State University, having previously been a student under Prof. Daniel Reed and having a deep understanding of the scientific method and scientific reporting. After graduation, I worked briefly for Daily Times-Call ( as an assistant and am not a part-time contributor to Biology Reporter.

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Melissa Ward