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J Mech Behav Biomed Mater. 2008 Jan;1(1):18-29. doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2007.05.001. Epub 2007 May 24.

Understanding the mechanical behaviour of human enamel from its structural and compositional characteristics.

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Biomaterials Science Research Unit, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Sydney, Sydney Dental Hospital, Surry Hills, NSW 2010, Australia.


As the hardest and one of the most durable load-bearing tissues of the body, enamel has attracted considerable interest from both material scientists and clinical practitioners due to its excellent mechanical properties. In this paper, possible mechanisms responsible for the excellent mechanical properties of enamel are explored and summarized, which primarily include its hierarchical structure and the nanomechanical properties of the minor protein macromolecular component. Furthermore, additional experimental and numerical evidences to support the assumptions are presented. For example, enamel shows lower elastic modulus, higher energy absorption ability and greater indentation creep behaviour than sintered hydroxyapatite material. All the data indicate that the structural and compositional characteristics of the minor protein component significantly regulate the mechanical properties of enamel to better match its functional needs.

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