Nanoscale pathways for human tooth decay - Central planar defect, organic-rich precipitate and high-angle grain boundary.

Fan Yun, Michael V Swain, Hansheng Chen, Julie Cairney, Jiangtao Qu, Gang Sha, Hongwei Liu, Simon P Ringer, Yu Han, Lingmei Liu, Xixiang Zhang, Rongkun Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Understanding the pathways and mechanisms of human tooth decay is central to the development of both prophylaxes and treatments, but only limited information is presently available about the initiation of caries at the nanoscale. By combining atom probe tomography and high-resolution electron microscopy, we have found three distinct initial sites for human dental enamel dissolution: a) along the central dark line (CDL) within carbonated apatite nanocrystals, b) at organic-rich precipitates and c) along high-angle grain boundaries. 3D maps of the atoms within hydroxyapatite nanocrystallites in sound and naturally-decayed human dental enamel reveal a higher concentration of Mg and Na in the CDL. The CDL is therefore thought to provide a pathway for the exchange of ions during demineralization and remineralization. Mg and Na enrichment of the CDL also suggests that it is associated with the ribbon-like organic-rich precursor in amelogenesis. Organic-rich precipitates and high-angle grain boundaries were also shown to be more vulnerable to corrosion while low-angle grain boundaries remained intact. This is attributed to the lower crystallinity in these regions.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119748
StatePublished - Dec 26 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: This work was financially supported by the Australian Research Council DP150100018, and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology OSR-2019-CPF-4101.4. The authors would like to thank Mr. Steve Moody, Mr. Adam Sikorski, and Dr. Matthew Foley for technical support. The authors would like to thank the Sydney node of Microscopy Australia for access to the required facilities and expertise.


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