The remineralization mechanism in dental caries lesions is not completely understood. This study reports on ultrastructural and chemical changes observed within arrested caries lesions. Carious human teeth were observed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and focused-ion-beam (FIB)-SEM. The crystals detected in the caries lesions were characterized by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), along with chemical element mapping using energy-dispersive spectroscopy (EDS)-STEM. FIB-SEM 3D reconstructions revealed a severely damaged dentin surface abundantly covered by bacteria. Although the dentin tubules were clogged up to a depth of 100 μm, bacterial invasion into dentin tubules was not observed. TEM crystal analysis and EDS-STEM revealed the presence of Ca and P, as well as of Mg within the HAp crystals deposited inside the dentin tubules. It was concluded that extensive remineralization with deposition of Mg-HAp crystals had occurred in dentin tubules of caries-arrested dentin. Understanding the natural remineralization process is thought to be helpful for developing clinical biomimetic remineralization protocols.
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