Estimating mineral changes in enamel formation by ashing/BSE and microCT

J Dent Res. 2014 Mar;93(3):256-62. doi: 10.1177/0022034513520548. Epub 2014 Jan 27.


Enamel formation produces the most highly mineralized tissue in the human body. The growth of enamel crystallites is assisted by enamel proteins and proteinases. As enamel formation progresses from secretory to maturation stages, the composition of the matrix with its mineral and non-mineral components dynamically changes in an inverse fashion. We hypothesized that appropriately calibrated micro-computed tomography (µCT) technology is suitable to estimate the mineral content (weight and/or density) and volume comparable in accuracy with that for directly weighed and sectioned enamel. Different sets of mouse mandibular incisors of C57BL/6 mice were used for dissections and µCT reconstructions. Calibration phantoms corresponding to the range of enamel mineral densities were used. Secretory-stage enamel contained little mineral and was consequently too poor in contrast for enamel volumes to be accurately estimated by µCT. Maturation-stage enamel, however, showed remarkable correspondence for total mineral content per volume where comparisons were possible between and among the different analytical techniques used. The main advantages of the µCT approach are that it is non-destructive, time-efficient, and can monitor changes in mineral content of the most mature enamel, which is too physically hard to dissect away from the tooth.

Keywords: dental enamel; enamel biomineralization/formation; hydroxyapatite; micro-computed tomography; mineralized tissue/development; minerals; tooth.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amelogenesis / physiology
  • Animals
  • Dental Enamel / chemistry*
  • Durapatite / analysis
  • Hot Temperature
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Incisor / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Microdissection
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Minerals / analysis*
  • X-Ray Microtomography / methods


  • Minerals
  • Durapatite