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J Dent. 1997 Nov;25(6):441-58.

The dentin substrate: structure and properties related to bonding.

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Department of Restorative Dentistry, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0758, USA.



Dentin is a vital, hydrated composite material with structural components and properties that vary with location. These variations are reviewed along with alterations by physiological and pathological changes that allow classification into various forms of dentin. Structural characteristics and mechanical properties are reviewed and the limitations of our understanding of structure-property relationships for normal and modified forms of dentin are discussed with respect to their impact on dentin bonding. Recent progress in methods available to study dentin and its demineralization are emphasized with their promise to increase our understanding of dentin properties and structure.


Recent microstructural studies, focusing on scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy and X-ray tomographic microscopy are included. A review of fundamental studies with emphasis on microstructurally sensitive methods, and prior reviews of basic mechanical properties are included with discussion of their correlation to composition and structure.


Emphasis in this work was placed on the major structural components of the tissue, including the collagen based organic matrix and its mineral reinforcement, the distribution of these components and their microstructural organization as related to mechanical properties and response to demineralization. Little information is included on biochemical and developmental studies or on non-collagenous proteins and other organic components for which limited understanding is available with respect to their role in structure-property relations and influence on bonding. In spite of the fact that the complexity of dentin precluded a comprehensive review, it is clear that local structural variations influence properties and impact nearly all preventive and restorative dental treatments. Much more work is needed in order to understand differences between vital and non-vital dentin, and dentin from extracted teeth. Although our knowledge is rudimentary in certain areas, increasingly sophisticated methods of studying dentin should provide the necessary information to model structure-property relations, optimize dentin bonding, and improve many aspects of preventive and restorative dentistry.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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