The soft zone in dentine beneath the dentino-enamel junction is thought to play an important role in tooth function, strain distribution and fracture resistance during mastication. Recently reported asymmetry in mechanical properties with tooth side may point at a basic property of tooth function. The aim of our study was to test if this asymmetry was reflected in the nano- and micromechanical properties of dentine.
We investigated the mechanical properties of dentine on the buccal and lingual side of nine extracted human teeth using nano- and microindentation. Properties were analysed on the natural log scale, using maximum likelihood to estimate the parameters. Two-sided 0.05-level likelihood ratio tests were used to assess the influences of surface (buccal versus lingual) and dentine depth, measured from the DEJ in crown dentine and from the CDJ in root dentine.
Results showed the well known gradual increase in mechanical properties with increasing distance from the DEJ. Coronal dentine showed higher elastic modulus and hardness on the lingual side of teeth for all measurements, while root dentine was harder on the buccal side. Due to the subtlety of these effects and the small number of teeth studied, results failed to reach statistical significance. Results suggest that dentine nano- and micromechanical properties vary with tooth side in agreement with recent literature using macroscopic methods. They also reveal that buccal–lingual ratios of hardness are in opposite directions in crown and root dentine, suggesting compensatory functions.