We used the atomic force microscope (AFM) to observe structure of the tooth, both rat and human. The rigidity and the surface flatness of thin sections of this mineralized tissue, allow us to attain good resolution with the AFM. As enamel contains uniquely large crystals of hydroxyapatite it can be investigated at high resolution. Tooth enamel and thin slices of undecalcified developing tooth germs from 2 - 12 day old rats were observed, embedded in acrylic resin (Lowicryl K4M). In addition, as orthophosphoric acid is widely used clinically to etch tooth enamel before restoring with composites, we studied its action at pH2 on the tooth surface during 1 hour of exposition. Hydroxyapatite crystals and collagen fibers were seen in the tooth slices observed in air, and the classical structure of the enamel was visible. The etched enamel surface under liquid, showed dramatic differences to that imaged in air. Modifications to the surface were also seen during exposure to the acid.
Marco R. Celio,
"Tooth structure studied using the atomic force microscope", Proc. SPIE 1855, Scanning Probe Microscopies II, (4 June 1993); doi: 10.1117/12.146381; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.146381