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Acta Biomater. 2015 Mar;14:146-53. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2014.11.047. Epub 2014 Dec 4.

Mechanics of microwear traces in tooth enamel.

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Departamento de Ingeniería Mecánica, Energética y de los Materiales, Universidad de Extremadura, 06006 Badajoz, Spain.
Department of Biology, Saint Michaels College, Colchester, VT 05439, USA.
Department of Biology, Saint Michaels College, Colchester, VT 05439, USA; Materials Measurement Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD 20899, USA. Electronic address:


It is hypothesized that microwear traces in natural tooth enamel can be simulated and quantified using microindentation mechanics. Microcontacts associated with particulates in the oral wear medium are modeled as sharp indenters with fixed semi-apical angle. Distinction is made between markings from static contacts (pits) and translational contacts (scratches). Relations for the forces required to produce contacts of given dimensions are derived, with particle angularity and compliance specifically taken into account so as to distinguish between different abrasives in food sources. Images of patterns made on human enamel with sharp indenters in axial and sliding loading are correlated with theoretical predictions. Special attention is given to threshold conditions for transition from a microplasticity to a microcracking mode, corresponding to mild and severe wear domains. It is demonstrated that the typical microwear trace is generated at loads on the order of 1N - i.e. much less than the forces exerted in normal biting - attesting to the susceptibility of teeth to wear in everyday mastication, especially in diets with sharp, hard and large inclusive intrinsic or extraneous particulates.


Contact mechanics; Diet; Enamel microwear; Microfracture; Microplasticity

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