Due to daily loading, trabecular bone is subjected to deformations (i.e., strain), which lead to stress in the bone tissue. When stress and/or strain deviate from the normal range, the remodeling process leads to adaptation of the bone architecture and its degree of mineralization to effectively withstand the sustained altered loading. As the apparent mechanical properties of bone are assumed to depend on the degree and distribution of mineralization, the goal of the present study was examine the influences of mineral heterogeneity on the biomechanical properties of trabecular bone in the human mandibular condyle. For this purpose nine right condyles from human dentate mandibles were scanned and evaluated with a microCT system. Cubic regional volumes of interest were defined, and each was transformed into two different types of finite element (FE) models, one homogeneous and one heterogeneous. In the heterogeneous models the element tissue moduli were scaled to the local degree of mineralization, which was determined using microCT. Compression and shear tests were simulated to determine the apparent elastic moduli in both model types. The incorporation of mineralization variation decreased the apparent Young's and shear moduli by maximally 21% in comparison to the homogeneous models. The heterogeneous model apparent moduli correlated significantly with bone volume fraction and degree of mineralization. It was concluded that disregarding mineral heterogeneity may lead to considerable overestimation of apparent elastic moduli in FE models.
Keywords: Mandibular condyle; Trabecular bone; Mechanical properties; FE model; Mineralization variation