Scanning Microscopy


A review of the use of scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and electron probe microanalyses in the study of dental calculus showed that such studies provided confirmatory and supplementary data on the morphological features of human dental calculi but gave only limited information on the identity of the crystalline or inorganic components.

This study aimed to explore the potential of combined SEM and microanalyses in the identification of the crystalline components of the human and animal dental calculi. Human and animal calculi were analyzed. Identification of the crystalline components were made based on the combined information of the morphology (SEM) and Ca/P molar ratios of the crystals with the morphology and Ca/P molar ratio of synthetic calcium phosphates (brushite or DCPD; octacalcium phosphate, OCP; Mg-substituted whitlockite, 𝛃-TCMP; CO3-substituted apatite, (CHA); and calcite.

SEM showed similarities in morphological features of human and animal dental calculi but differences in the forms of crystals present. Microanalyses and crystal morphology data suggested the presence of CaCO3 (calcite) and CHA in the animal (cat, dog, tiger) and of OCP, 𝛃-TCMP and CHA in human dental calculi. X-ray diffraction and infrared (IR) absorption analyses confirmed these results.

This exploratory study demonstrated that by taking into consideration what is known about the crystalline components of human and animal dental calculi, combined SEM and microanalyses can provide qualitative identification.

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