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J Struct Biol. 2001 Sep;135(3):294-301.

The functional width of the dentino-enamel junction determined by AFM-based nanoscratching.

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Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.


The dentino-enamel junction (DEJ) constitutes a structurally unique interphase uniting two mineralized tissues with very different matrix composition and physical properties. Its excellent biomechanical properties have drawn interest as a biomimetic model for joining dissimilar materials. In order to characterize the functional width of the DEJ, nanoscratching experiments were performed on human third molars. Friction coefficients of enamel, of dentin, and at the DEJ were obtained with a nanoscratch tester attached to an atomic force microscope (AFM). Normal loads in the range of 50 to 600 microN were applied to a spherical diamond indenter (r = 10 microm), which was driven 10 microm across the sample surface, recording the lateral force. Imaging with an AFM facilitated exact positioning of the scratches. The friction coefficient of intertubular dentin was 0.31 +/- 0.05, significantly above the coefficient of enamel of 0.14 +/- 0.02. The increased friction of dentin is attributed to the higher content of organic phases. Scratches performed across the interphase between enamel and dentin showed a sharp monotonic change in the friction coefficient. The average width of the slope between the friction coefficients of dentin and enamel was 2.0 +/- 1.1 microm and is assumed to represent the functional width of the dentino-enamel junction. The effect of the scalloped structure of the DEJ on its functional width as determined by mechanical testing is discussed.

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