Using new imaging technology, scientists have unlocked the secrets of enamel.
If we cut our skin or break a bone, these tissues will repair themselves; our bodies are excellent at recovering from injury.
Tooth enamel, however, cannot regenerate, and the oral cavity is a hostile environment.
Every mealtime, enamel is put under incredible stress; it also weathers extreme changes in both pH and temperature.
Despite this adversity, the tooth enamel that we develop as a child remains with us throughout our days.
Researchers have long been interested in how enamel manages to stay functional and intact for a lifetime.
As one of the authors of the latest study, Prof. Pupa Gilbert from the University of Wisconsin–Madison puts it, "How does it prevent catastrophic failure?"
The secrets of enamel
With assistance from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge and the University of Pittsburgh, PA, Prof. Gilbert took a detailed look at the structure of enamel.
The team of scientists has now published the results of its study in the journal .
Enamel is made up of so-called enamel rods, which consist of hydroxyapatite crystals. These long, thin enamel rods are around 50 nanometers wide and 10 micrometers long.