Finite element modelling and experimental validation of the enamel demineralisation process at the rod level

Enrico Salvati*, Cyril Besnard, Robert A. Harper, Thomas Moxham, Richard M. Shelton, Gabriel Landini, Alexander M. Korsunsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
58 Downloads (Pure)


In the past years, a significant amount of effort has been directed at the observation and characterisation of caries using experimental techniques. Nevertheless, relatively little progress has been made in numerical modelling of the underlying demineralisation process.

The present study is the first attempt to provide a simplified calculation framework for the numerical simulation of the demineralisation process at the length scale of enamel rods and its validation by comparing the data with statistical analysis of experimental results.

FEM model was employed to simulate a time-dependent reaction-diffusion equation process in which H ions diffuse and cause demineralisation of the enamel. The local orientation of the hydroxyapatite crystals was taken into account. Experimental analysis of the demineralising front was performed using advanced high-resolution synchrotron X-ray micro-Computed Tomography. Further experimental investigations were conducted by means of SEM and STEM imaging techniques.

Besides establishing and validating the new modelling framework, insights into the role of the etchant solution pH level were obtained. Additionally, some light was shed on the origin of different types of etching patterns by simulating the demineralisation process at different etching angles of attack.

The implications of this study pave the way for simulations of enamel demineralisation within different complex scenarios and across the range of length scales. Indeed, the framework proposed can incorporate the presence of chemical species other than H ions and their diffusion and reaction leading to dissolution and re-precipitation of hydroxyapatite. It is the authors’ hope and aspiration that ultimately this work will help identify new ways of controlling and preventing caries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-177
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Advanced Research
Early online date6 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) project entitled “Tackling human dental caries by multi-modal correlative microscopy and multi-physics modelling” ( EP/P005381/1 ). The authors would like to thank the Diamond Light Source (DLS) facility at Harwell campus (UK), in particular the access to I13 beamline and support. Thanks to Jonathan James (School of Dentistry, University of Birmingham) for his support in sample preparation.


  • Demineralisation simulation
  • Dental demineralisation
  • Enamel
  • FEM
  • Reaction-diffusion
  • Synchrotron CT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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