The existence of jawbreakers alone shows that human teeth are capable of taking an astonishing amount of punishment. Unlike regular bones, teeth are composed of no living cells and therefore cannot regenerate. For dentists, understanding how it is that our teeth are able to handle the stresses of a lifetime is important for understanding how to properly care for people’s teeth and in developing quality replacements for lost teeth.
A new discovery by researchers from the Charité Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, Germany, has made huge strides in this field by examining the direct mechanical properties of the structures that make up the internal mechanisms of the tooth.
They did so by directly examining the Dentin, the softer porous layer under the hard enamel of the outer tooth. They found that the dentin is not only layered, something that the dental community has known for some time, but that it was compressed. The layers make the tooth more resistant to damage, but the compression of the tooth lowers the risk of cracking over time.
Similar to metal work, compression in teeth causes dislocations, microscopic faults in the tooth, to be piled up. It changes the shape of these dislocations and makes them denser and less likely to form into cracks. The study does not detail how these compressions came about to begin with, but researchers do not necessarily need to know.
By using existing techniques in metal and ceramic working, researchers believe that more durable ceramic tooth replacements can be developed. If the compression process now known to be native to the tooth is used to make these replacements, it could potentially have industry changing repercussions.