Tooth Complexity Bites Darwin

July 6, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

New microscopic techniques are making it harder to be a Darwinian dentist.

Dr Jobe Martin, a dentist, was turned from evolutionist to creationist when he was challenged to explain how biological wonders could have evolved. It was the details in biology that persuaded him some 20 years ago, and it is details once again that have power to change the minds of today’s evolutionists – if they will just pay attention. New methods of microscopy are giving biologists their first looks at tissues like tooth enamel at near-atomic resolution. The stage is set to weigh creation vs evolution!

Complexity of human tooth enamel revealed at atomic level in NIH-funded study (National Institutes of Health). The NIH has no particular inclination to support creationism, but they had to marvel at what they saw using a new technique called Atom Probe Tomography. This takes earlier methods of observation, like STEM (scanning transmission electron microscopy), to whole new levels of resolution. What they observed were “Unprecedented details of enamel structure,” which are helping the next generation of biologists understand how teeth are constructed, and might give dentists new approaches for fighting cavities. Scientists already knew that

Amazing FactsYour teeth are remarkably resilient, despite enduring the stress and strain of biting, chewing, and eating for a lifetime. Enamel — the hardest substance in the human body — is largely responsible for this endurance. Its high mineral content gives it strength. Enamel forms the outer covering of teeth and helps prevent tooth decay, or caries.

Atom probe tomography is bringing scientists closer to the detailed structure of enamel, like seeing individual houses as a pilot flies closer to the ground:

“Earlier studies revealed the bulk composition of enamel, which is like knowing the overall makeup of a city in terms of its population,” said senior author Derk Joester, Ph.D., a professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern. “But it doesn’t tell you how things operate at the local scale in a city block or a single house. Atom probe tomography gave us that more detailed view.”

What the scientists are finding is the world’s “tiniest sandwich” structure, as a press release from Northwestern University puts it, consisting of hierarchical layers arranged in a complex crystalline order (see animation in PhysOrg‘s copy). The layers are just 6 billionths of a meter across! Additionally, they are finding that tiny defects in the matrix take advantage of stress to make teeth even stronger than if the the matrix was uniform. Who would have thought? It’s like the military proverb, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

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