Properties of tooth enamel in great apes

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 7-23-2010


A comparative study has been made of human and great ape molar tooth enamel. Nanoindentation techniques are used to map profiles of elastic modulus and hardness across sections from the enamel–dentin junction to the outer tooth surface. The measured data profiles overlap between species, suggesting a degree of commonality in material properties. Using established deformation and fracture relations, critical loads to produce function-threatening damage in the enamel of each species are calculated for characteristic tooth sizes and enamel thicknesses. The results suggest that differences in load-bearing capacity of molar teeth in primates are less a function of underlying material properties than of morphology.


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