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Biomaterials. 2013 Jan;34(4):864-74. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2012.10.032. Epub 2012 Nov 3.

The importance of microstructural variations on the fracture toughness of human dentin.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA.


The crack growth resistance of human dentin was characterized as a function of relative distance from the DEJ and the corresponding microstructure. Compact tension specimens were prepared from the coronal dentin of caries-free 3rd molars. The specimens were sectioned from either the outer, middle or inner dentin. Stable crack extension was achieved under Mode I quasi-static loading, with the crack oriented in-plane with the tubules, and the crack growth resistance was characterized in terms of the initiation (K(o)), growth (K(g)) and plateau (K(p)) toughness. A hybrid approach was also used to quantify the contribution of dominant mechanisms to the overall toughness. Results showed that human dentin exhibits increasing crack growth resistance with crack extension in all regions, and that the fracture toughness of inner dentin (2.2 ± 0.5 MPa·m(0.5)) was significantly lower than that of middle (2.7 ± 0.2 MPa·m(0.5)) and outer regions (3.4 ± 0.3 MPa·m(0.5)). Extrinsic toughening, composed mostly of crack bridging, was estimated to cause an average increase in the fracture energy of 26% in all three regions. Based on these findings, dental restorations extended into deep dentin are much more likely to cause tooth fracture due to the greater potential for introduction of flaws and decrease in fracture toughness with depth.

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