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Biomaterials. 2007 Dec;28(35):5238-45. Epub 2007 Sep 17.

The tooth attachment mechanism defined by structure, chemical composition and mechanical properties of collagen fibers in the periodontium.

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Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences, Division of Biomaterials and Bioengineering, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0758, USA.


In this study, a comparison between structure, chemical composition and mechanical properties of collagen fibers at three regions within a human periodontium, has enabled us to define a novel tooth attachment mechanism. The three regions include, (1) the enthesis region: insertion site of periodontal ligament (PDL) fibers (collagen fibers) into cementum at the root surface, (2) bulk cementum, and (3) the cementum-dentin junction (CDJ). Structurally, continuity in collagen fibers was observed from the enthesis, through bulk cementum and CDJ. At the CDJ the collagen fibers split into individual collagen fibrils and intermingled with the extracellular matrix of mantle dentin. Under wet conditions, the collagen fibers at the three regions exhibited significant swelling suggesting a composition rich in polyanionic molecules such as glycosaminoglycans. Additionally, site-specific indentation illustrated a comparable elastic modulus between collagen fibers at the enthesis (1-3 GPa) and the CDJ (2-4 GPa). However, the elastic modulus of collagen fibers within bulk cementum was higher (4-7 GPa) suggesting presence of extrafibrillar mineral. It is known that the tooth forms a fibrous joint with the alveolar bone, which is termed a gomphosis. Although narrower in width than the PDL space, the hygroscopic CDJ can also be termed as a gomphosis; a fibrous joint between cementum and root dentin capable of accommodating functional loads similar to that between cementum and alveolar bone. From an engineering perspective, it is proposed that a tooth contains two fibrous joints that accommodate the masticatory cyclic loads. These joints are defined by the attachment of dissimilar materials via graded stiffness interfaces, such as: (1) alveolar bone attached to cementum with the PDL; and (2) cementum to root dentin with the CDJ. Thus, through variations in concentrations of basic constituents, distinct regions with characteristic structures and graded properties allow for attachment and the load bearing characteristics of a tooth.

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