JBIC Journal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 303–306

A link between copper and dental caries in human teeth identified by X-ray fluorescence elemental mapping


    • School of ChemistryThe University of Sydney
    • School of Chemistry and PhysicsThe University of Adelaide
  • Stefan Vogt
    • X-ray Science DivisionArgonne National Laboratory
  • Harold Eastgate
    • Eastmac Pty. Ltd.
  • Peter A. Lay
    • School of ChemistryThe University of Sydney
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00775-007-0321-z

Cite this article as:
Harris, H.H., Vogt, S., Eastgate, H. et al. J Biol Inorg Chem (2008) 13: 303. doi:10.1007/s00775-007-0321-z


Quantitative X-ray fluorescence imaging of sections of human teeth revealed an increased concentration of copper and zinc in carious regions of dentine compared with unaffected portions of the tooth. Higher-resolution images provided strong evidence that the copper was transported and localized mainly in the dentinal tubules. While similar levels of zinc were found in these areas and concentrated in the tubules, zinc was also more evident in the hydroxyapatite, and the increase in zinc levels compared with the levels in background (normal) areas was less than that for copper. These results suggest a role for copper and zinc in the formation and progression of dental caries and present a potential point of intervention for treatment.


Dental cariesCopperX-ray fluorescence imagingHuman teeth

Supplementary material

775_2007_321_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (938 kb)
ESM (PDF 938 kb)

Copyright information

© SBIC 2007