Mechanics of longitudinal cracks in tooth enamel

A. Barani, A. J. Keown, M. B. Bush, J. J.W. Lee, H. Chai, B. R. Lawn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A study is made of longitudinal "channel" cracking in tooth enamel from axial compressive loading. The cracks simulate those generated in the molar and premolar teeth of humans and animals by natural tooth function. Contact loading tests are made on extracted human molars with hard and soft indenting plates to determine the evolution of such cracks with increasing load. Fracture is largely stable, with initial slow growth followed by acceleration as the cracks approach completion around an enamel side wall. A simple power law relation expresses the critical load for full fracture in terms of characteristic tooth dimensions - base radius and enamel thickness - as well as enamel toughness. Extended three-dimensional finite element modeling with provision for growth of embedded cracks is used to validate this relation. The cracks leave "fingerprints" that offer valuable clues to dietary habits, and provide a basis for a priori prediction of bite forces for different animals from measured tooth dimensions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2285-2292
Number of pages8
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Bite force
  • Enamel
  • Longitudinal channel cracks
  • Teeth
  • Three-dimensional finite element modeling


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