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Korean Study Visualizes Initial Erosion on Dentition

A team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) measured the mechanical and morphological changes that occur during enamel erosion caused by sugary beverages.

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A team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) measured the mechanical and morphological changes that occur during enamel erosion caused by sugary beverages. The findings provide insight into how erosion begins, and how quickly it can occur. 

Researchers were able to examine how acidic and sugary drinks affect human tooth enamel at the nanoscale level due to a method known as atomic force microscopy (AFM), which is a high-resolution type of scanning probe microscopy. The study, led by Seungbum Hong, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST, is published in the Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials

The team used five human molars that were preserved in distilled water prior to the experiment, which consisted of immersing the teeth in two types of soda and orange juice. Each drink’s impact on the molars was analyzed and the etching process on tooth enamel was monitored over time.

 “Knowing how it starts is important to understanding the mechanism of tooth erosion,” says Hong. “Examining erosion at a nanoscale level helps scientists understand how to stop the process. It will also provide insight into micrometer- and millimeter-scale erosion, at which point we can see the erosion with our naked eyes.”

It was observed that surface roughness of tooth enamel increased significantly the longer the molar was immersed, while the elastic modulus of the enamel surface decreased “drastically” as immersion time increased. The enamel surface was reported to roughen five times more when it was immersed in drinks for 10 minutes, and the elastic modulus was five times lower after 5 minutes in the beverages. 

Using AFM techniques to visualize ionic motion and interaction between ions, polarization, and defects on teeth may also help scientists design composite dental implants that could integrate with existing bone. 

This study did have limitations, as it did not include human saliva, which dilutes soda concentration and helps remineralization, and the dentin was not fully covered by enamel. However, the findings do serve as a warning of the effects of soda and sugary drinks have on enamel. The study, “Nanoscale Effects of Beverages on Enamel Surface of Human Teeth: An Atomic Force Microscopy Study,” is available online. 

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